Obama fund-raiser highlights Democrats’ political imperative

President Obama arrived to speak about developments in Iraq at the house where he is staying on Martha’s Vineyard.
President Obama arrived to speak about developments in Iraq at the house where he is staying on Martha’s Vineyard.(Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — It was a jarring contrast. Minutes after President Obama solemnly spoke about American airstrikes and the “difficult days ahead” in Iraq, he headed to a home perched atop a bluff in Martha’s Vineyard to charm wealthy donors at a fund-raiser.

The appearance was a reminder that Obama, despite confronting some of the most tumultuous world events of his presidency in recent weeks, is also the leader of a Democratic Party that is increasingly worried about losing its grip on the US Senate.

Tickets to Monday’s fund-raiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, held at the home of child-care magnates Roger Brown and Linda Mason, were priced from $15,000 to $32,400.


The imperatives of politics are pressing heavily not just on Obama and Democrats, but also Republicans in what is shaping up to be an especially costly and competitive fight for Senate control. The summer fund-raising pause, where politicians traditionally take time to eat corn dogs at state fairs and attend other retail events, barely exists anymore. Instead, candidates are courting donors to fend off attacks from outside groups and intimidate opponents.

Obama has already been mocked by Republicans for his time on the golf course. Monday’s appearance, amid a vacation day that also included time at the beach with his family, gave the GOP another opening, as the party accused Obama and Senate Democrats of a “stunning lack of awareness” and called on them to cancel the event.

“There’s never a good time, probably, to fund-raise, but he’s got to do what he’s got to do for the party,” said Jim Manley, former aide to Senate majority leader Harry Reid and former Senator Edward M. Kennedy. “Presidents can walk and chew gum.”

Obama is also scheduled to host a fund-raiser in Newport, R.I., for House Democrats later this month as well as a Senate fund-raiser a few weeks later in Baltimore.


Monday’s Martha’s Vineyard reception was Obama’s 41st fund-raiser this year and his 400th since taking office, according to Mark Knoller, the CBS News White House correspondent who keeps the most exhaustive records of the president’s schedule. Knoller said the Vineyard event was Obama’s 17th political fund-raiser during 11 visits to Massachusetts since taking office. (Six additional visits to the state did not include fund-raising activities.)

Brown and Mason, the event’s hosts, are major Democratic contributors. Brown is also president of Berklee College of Music.

Senator Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, was also expected to attend Monday’s event. Senator Elizabeth Warren, his fellow Bay State Democrat, attended a separate event for Senate Democrats in Martha’s Vineyard last month but was not planning to attend Monday, according to her spokeswoman, Lacey Rose.

The courting of Democratic and Republican heavy hitters to fill campaign coffers began as soon as Congress broke for the August recess and is continuing all summer long.

The month kicked off with the annual Newport Summer Weekend benefiting Representative David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat. Tickets, at $2,600 per head, included a welcome reception and dinner at historic Newport mansions, as well as entree to the Newport Jazz Festival, according to the invitation posted by the Sunlight Foundation in its compilation of fund-raising events.

Also on the fund-raising docket: a lobster bake for the Maine Democratic Party, a country club golf tournament hosted by the North Dakota Republican Party for Senator John Hoeven, and a Napa weekend winery tour for Representative John Shimkus, an Illinois Republican.


Republican headliners — Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio — are making appearances all month long in Iowa, Illinois, South Carolina, and North Dakota, on behalf of candidates. Their Democratic counterparts — including Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Reid — are touching down in Kent, Conn., and Cherry Hill, N.J. Former president Bill Clinton hosted a luncheon fund-raising in Lexington, Ky., for Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is running against McConnell.

The biggest prize this November is the Senate, where Republicans need six additional seats to gain power. Republicans have become increasingly bold after mainstream candidates and incumbents succeeded in fending off insurgent challengers who complicated the party’s efforts in 2010 and 2012.

“I don’t think they have ended up with any of the type of self-destructive candidates that they’ve had in the last two [election] cycles,” said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan political newsletter.

Bierman can be reached at Jan can be reached at