Obama’s third fund-raising arm

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WASHINGTON — On July 11, the Obama operation created an additional new fund-raising arm that has been fund-raising below the radar, in a drive to collect and funnel money to Democratic parties in 18 key battleground states to register voters and turn out the vote for Barack Obama and down ticket Democratic contests.

The “Committee for Change” just as “Obama for America” and the “Obama Victory Fund” — is part of the effort to elect Obama. By forming a third committee, the Obama campaign can go to donors who have given the maximum under federal contribution limits imposed on the first two committees but have not totally “maxed out.” A similar set-up was in place in 2004 for the Kerry campaign.

On Friday in Chicago, the featured speakers at a “Committee for Change” fund-raiser are Joe Rospars, the Obama campaign new media director and Mike Slaby, the technology director for the campaign, with national headquarters on Michigan Avenue. A ticket goes for $500; with co-chairs having to raise or donate $25,000.

One of the co-hosts: Robert Blackwell Jr., a longtime Obama friend, businessman and ping pong “Killerspin” magnate. In April, the Los Angeles Times revealed that Blackwell was an $8,000-a-month Obama legal client (before election to the Senate) and that Obama later wrote a letter for Blackwell for a state grant.

My beef: While the names of the donors giving to this Committee for Change of course are reported — $1.89 million raised according to a September filing — its fund-raising activities have been done out of sight. The Obama campaign has championed transparency, and “they should not shy away from telling the public what they are doing,” said Chris Holman, the campaign finance lobbyist for Public Citizen.

From Obama-Biden spokesman Nick Shapiro: “The Campaign for Change is a state party-based voter registration and GOTV project working to elect Senator Obama as well as benefit the entire Democratic ticket in each state. CFC will work to harness the enthusiasm of Obama’s grass-roots-level supporters and organize them in communities across the state — neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend and colleague to colleague — working for the benefit of Democratic candidates up and down the ticket.”

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