- (Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
While many previous donors to President Obama's campaign are choosing to sit on their wallets this time around over a faltering economy and lingering war in Afghanistan, the president has found newly motivated donors within the homosexual community.
Since publicly announcing his support for same-sex marriage in May, several celebrities who are gay or support gay marriage have forked over large sums of money for Obama's reelection efforts.
While Obama has always received substantial support within the LGBT community in recent weeks, their support was seen as lukewarm during the president's first campaign when he said marriage was "a union between a man and a woman." Now that Obama has "evolved" and publicly embraced same-sex marriage, the motivation within the gay community has skyrocketed.
A fundraiser in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, attended mainly by gay activists and supporters including Ellen DeGeneres and Cher, raised over $5 million for Obama and the Democratic Party. Recent fundraising reports released on Thursday show that the Obama campaign raised over $60 million during the month of May.
In a glowing endorsement of Obama's support for homosexual issues, he received a standing ovation during the Los Angeles event from the 600 in attendance when he confirmed his commitment to refuse to reinstate the military's ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military.
"That is not something I will tolerate," Obama told the audience.
But gay supporters and their allies aren't just giving money; they are also raising it from other friends and supporters.
Donors are required by law to provide their name, address and occupation, but sexual orientation is not required and therefore more difficult to measure. However, many of the supporters who gather and raise larger sums of money, known as "bundlers," are increasingly identified as homosexual and their contribution to the Obama campaign has been significant.
An analysis by several news sources such as The Washington Post and CNN estimates that anywhere from one in six "bundlers" are homosexual and their combined contributions have exceeded $8 million during this fundraising cycle.
Homosexual activists such as Fred Eychaner of Chicago have contributed over $1.2 million to Obama and super PACs that support him. Software entrepreneurs Tim Gill of Colorado, along with his partner Scott Miller, have donated in excess of $600,000 to Obama.
But outside of the gay and Hollywood glamour circuit, Obama is struggling to attract many of the more blue-collar, working class contributors he attracted during his first campaign.
In 2008, Obama had more than 550,000 donors who contributed $200 or more to his campaign, giving him the longest fundraising list of any politician. But a recent analysis of campaign finance records by BuzzFeed shows that 88 percent of those same 550,000, have yet to contribute for the 2012 election cycle.
According to interviews conducted among many of Obama's former contributions, a lack of enthusiasm based on the president's inability to end the recent economic recession, combined with the fact that Obamacare doesn't go far enough in meeting the needs of the middle class are primary reasons why fundraising has suffered.
"Where is the change I can believe in?" Lisa Pike, a small business owner in Virginia, asked BuzzFeed. "I wish he was the socialist they accused him of being. I wish we had the tons of change that would justify the right freaking out … but I'm disappointed that he's not the change-agent I had hoped for."
Obama campaign spokesperson Katie Hogan disputed the analysis, saying that 98 percent of donors have given less than $200 and that the campaign is ahead of its 2008 one at this point.
Nonetheless, President Obama and his team still have work to do in order to convince some of his most ardent supporters to get back on their donor list.
"Mostly, the thing is we want more," noted Kirsten Leitzinger, saying that Obama's performance over the past three years has left her "unfulfilled."