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Monday, June 11, 2012

Campaigns Strike Gold With Celebrity Dinners

George Clooney, center, attends the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in April in Washington. President Obama's campaign fundraiser at George Clooney's house last month raised $15 million. (AP)

President Obama’s campaign fundraiser at George Clooney’s house last month was the most successful ever, raising $15 million. While plenty of Hollywood hitters contributed, the majority of the money – $9 million – came from small donors, who took part in an online raffle to attend the event.

The trend continues this week with the President and First Lady Michelle Obama attending a dinner at Sarah Jessica Parker’s Manhattan home. Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is raffling off dinner with Donald Trump.

Overall, the strategy seems to be working for Pres. Obama. While Mitt Romney raised $17 million more than the President last month, the Obama campaign is ahead when it comes to small donors.

The Campaign Finance Institute found that 43 percent of the president’s donors gave $200 or less, totaling about $88 million. That’s compared to just 10 percent for Romney, totaling $10 million.

Here & Now media analyst John Carroll said that even small donations are important because donors feel like they’ve invested in the campaign, so they may be willing to volunteer.

Candidates can also go back to smaller donors again and again, since there’s a $2500 limit on campaign contributions for both the primary and the general election.

But dinner with the stars could backfire for Pres. Obama.

“They’ve got a lot of baggage and it’s not all from Louis Vuitton,” quipped Carroll. He noted that in 2008, Obama took flak for his “super star image.” And while Romney is offering a celebrity dinner with Donald Trump, Carroll says that fits the GOP narrative better, since Trump is seen as a successful businessman with conservative credentials.

Carroll believes that despite the potential backlash, the celebrity dinner raffle is a formula that is here to stay.

“This is low cost, low maintenance, it’s easy to do and it’s high profile. And so it fits all the parameters that a candidate would want for a fundraiser,” Carroll said.

Guest:

  • John Carroll, Here & Now media analyst and Boston University Mass Communication professor, he writes the Campaign Outsider blog

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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