Candidates focus on expat fundraising

A Barack Obama supporter holds up a banner during voting in the U.S. presidential elections in London, England.

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: Tonight, Barack Obama holds a $2,500 a plate fundraiser . . . in London. It's illegal for presidential candidates to take money from foreign citizens. But of course, London is home to many wealthy Americans. Geoff Brumfiel has this story from London.


Geoff Brumfiel: Ruth Shapiro and her family have been living abroad for nearly six years. She's always been a big Democrat, but since she moved overseas she's felt distant from U.S. politics. This year though, she's feeling more connected.

Ruth Shapiro: So Howard Dean was here two weeks ago, Michelle Obama came to raise money for Obama, Bill Clinton was here I think three times to raise money for Hillary.

It's not just Democrats trolling for money in London. Republican candidate John McCain came here in March for a thousand dollar-a-plate luncheon.

Americans living abroad have contributed over $2.5 million so far in this election season. That's three times the total amount raised from overseas in 2004.

Massie Ritsch: London is far and away the biggest producer of campaign cash.

Massie Ritsch is with the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign watchdog group. He says that expats working in the financial sector are the source of most of that money. And the weak dollar makes it easy to give more.

Ritsch: They're making a lot of money, they're paid in pounds and they seem to be very motivated to contribute to candidates in this election.

Ruth Shapiro, a consultant, and her husband, a banker, fit that profile. They have given more this year than in past elections. It's partially because the Internet makes it easy, but also because of what she's experienced while overseas.

Shapiro: It's been particularly painful I think being an American outside the United States during the Bush Administration, and watching friends throughout Europe and Asia really begin to question the United States in a way that they never did.

Many expats support McCain as well. Yet Obama has raised nearly five times as much from abroad as the Republican candidate -- a total of around $1.5 million so far. Tonight's private dinner will add to that.

The guest of Honor is Richard Holbrooke, Bill Clinton's former ambassador to the United Nations. Holbrooke is expected to draw somewhere between 30 and 40 wealthy donors. That will make the meal worth between $75,000 and $100,000.

In London, I'm Geoff Brumfiel for Marketplace.

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