Obama Didn’t Return Donor Calls, May Have Lost Millions

Barack Obama’s campaign may have lost out in millions of dollars of contributions by failing to return phone calls, Alexander Bolton reports for The Hill.

Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) presidential campaign may have missed out on millions of dollars by failing to return the calls of a small group of highly influential donors and operatives in New Jersey. The high-rollers, having waited in vain for more than a month for Obama’s campaign to get back in contact, signed up to support Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

The gaffe highlights Clinton’s organizational advantage over her chief rival for the Democratic nomination. It also shows how Obama’s focus on the Internet and running an outsider’s campaign may undermine his ability to cultivate traditional political allies.

The coterie of Garden State Democrats supporting Clinton, which calls itself “The Group,” plans to hold three fundraisers in April and May and to raise about $2 million for her campaign before the Feb. 5 state primary, said its leaders.

Knowing that only three states raised more money for Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) presidential race in 2004, this year’s crop of White House hopefuls courted The Group intensely, particularly in light of its decision to switch to the early-primary date in February, a few weeks after the Iowa caucuses. Sens. Clinton, Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) each met privately with The Group. Biden even invited its members to his home in Delaware and spent six hours trying to convince them to support him. The Group includes John Graham, co-chairman of Kerry’s 2004 campaign in New Jersey, and Al DeCotiis, who served as New Jersey co-finance chairman for former Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 campaign and former President Bill Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 campaigns.

Before The Group decided whom to support, it tried for several weeks to get in touch with Obama but never received a response. “They never got back to us,” said DeCotiis, The Group’s co-founder, who said it tried to contact Obama’s campaign for “five or six weeks” at the beginning of the year. “We wanted to get a sense of what he was all about, whether he had what it takes [to be president.] Unfortunately we never got to meet him. “They got back to us when we had already decided,” DeCotiis continued. “When they found out we were endorsing they called and we said it was too late. We wanted to be fair and reach out to all of the major candidates.”

There’s no guarantee that “The Group” would have supported Obama. Indeed, it’s quite likely that they would have supported Clinton, anyway, given that she represents next-door New York and is the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. Still, Bolton is right to note that having assembled a staff experienced in these matters gives Clinton a massive organizational advantage.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    There’s a bit of a connection between this post and one a little downstream on experience. In the comments one of those responding, challenging the value of experience, noted that you can tell a lot about a candidate’s leadership capabilities by how his or her campaign is run.

  2. Perhaps Obama’s campaign doesn’t only lack the technological capability to make the Clinton 1984 ad, but also to return phone calls in a timely manner. Exactly what level of technology is Obama using?

    Me think I smell a campaign theme ala “flip flop” coming. Every misstep by Obama will be laid to the fact they don’t even have the technology to accomplish it, when the technology is straightforward and wide spread.

  3. Triumph says:

    Barack Obama’s campaign may have lost out in millions of dollars of contributions by failing to return phone calls, Alexander Bolton reports for The Hill.

    B. Hussein Obama’s inability to use a phone is frightening. This is a serious “where’s the beef” moment of the campaign.