Campaign Finance--Breaking the Grip of Big Donors
February 20, 2008
Small Online Contributions Add Up to Huge Fund-Raising Edge for Obama
By MICHAEL LUO
CHICAGO — A cluster of cramped cubicles, tucked away in a rear corner of Senator Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters here, serves as the heart of a fund-raising machine that has reshaped the calculus of the 2008 election.
Mr. Obama’s finance director, Julianna Smoot, who has helped him raise more than $150 million so far, does not even have her own office. A Ping-Pong table is the gathering spot for Friday lunches for her team.
The setting, which has the feel of an Internet start-up, is emblematic of how Mr. Obama, of Illinois, has been able to raise so much money. On Wednesday, the Obama campaign will report to the Federal Election Commission that it collected $36 million in January — $4 million more than campaign officials had previously estimated — an unprecedented feat for a single month in American politics that was powered overwhelmingly by small online donations. That dwarfed…