Ben Smith of Buzzfeed recently wrote about campaign donations — both Romney’s and Obama’s — for this presidential election. In an otherwise fairly informative piece, Smith feeds into one of the myths about the 2008 election, the claim that Obama’s small donor base was bigger by far than that of any other candidate in history.
Smith begins his campaign finance piece with his first paragraph touting Obama’s “perfection” of “small-dollar politics.”
The 2008 election marked the perfection of small-dollar politics, as Barack Obama fueled roughly half of his campaign with the email-driven, impulse-based solicitation that had been pioneered by Howard Dean four years earlier and technically perfected by smaller campaigns and advocacy groups.
It has been said repeatedly that Obama’s 2008 election campaign brought in more small donors of $200 or less than any other candidate, however this is not true. In fact, even the George Soros-funded Campaign Finance Institute says the claim that Obama had more small donors than any other candidate is false.
In 2008 the CFI found that Obama had just about the same small donor record as George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign. The study found that Bush’s total campaign donations broke down to 25% from small donors. Obama’s 2008 take was 26% small donors. No real statistical difference, there.
“The myth is that money from small donors dominated Barack Obama’s finances. The reality of Obama’s fundraising was impressive, but the reality does not match the myth,” said CFI’s executive director Michael Malbin.
In his own defense, Ben Smith says via Twitter that he was only talking about the methods by which Obama and Romney were soliciting donations (heavily online) and that he wasn’t talking total percentages. But regardless, to begin the piece with praise of Obama’s supposed small donor miracle leads readers straight to affording the President more credit than he deserves for the facts.