First Lady Michelle Obama raised at least $2.5 million – and probably a good deal more – for her husband and Democrats during a single swing through California last week, proving herself a potent fundraising weapon that will undoubtably be brandished again and again as the campaign season descends.
Her prowess at emptying donors’ pockets will also ensure that, in addition to helping pay for fundraising by President Obama and Vice President Biden, taxpayers will be footing some of the bill for Michelle’s political travel too.
The president – as others have before him – routinely schedules an “official” presidential event along with fundraisers when he travels, meaning taxpayers are on the hook for most of the travel costs. Michelle had two official events along with four fundraisers during her California trip.
It’s impossible to prove whether such official travel is merely thrown in to offset the cost of the political travel. But it’s usually impossible to prove it’s not.
Fundraising by a first lady is not novel. Laura Bush held 13 fundraisers in 2003 as husband George W. Bush warmed up for the 2004 campaign.
But Mrs. Obama has maintained a higher profile than Mrs. Bush and likely has the potential to be an even greater asset for her husband’s campaign given the fervid support she gets from Obama backers, so she probably will be used more often.
According to statistics compiled by CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller – the well known, veteran chronicler of White House activities – Michelle began her fundraising Monday, June 13 with a luncheon at a private residence in Pasadena that included 500 donors paying at least $1,000 each, amounting to a take of at least $500,000.
This does not include the number of takers who agreed to spend $10,000 for a photo and some “private time” with Michelle, according to reports.
Later in Los Angeles, she again raised about $1 million at a private home where tickets ranged from $1,500 to $35,800, according to the owner of the residence.
On Tuesday, June 14, Michelle attended an event at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, where 250 guests paid anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000 to get in. Assuming conservatively an average ticket price of $2,000, Michelle raised at least $500,000.
And finally, later the same day in San Francisco at a ballroom in the Merchants Exchange Building, about 200 attendees bought tickets starting at $2,500, pointing to another haul of more than $500,000.