Two first ladies will hit the campaign trail for Democrats this month: Michelle Obama, champion of ordinary Americans, and Michelle Obama, money-grubber for the liberal elite. The actions of the second Michelle will tell you all you need to know about the lip service of the first.
Mrs. Obama kicked off her electioneering with an online “grassroots” appeal to individual donors coordinated by the White House political arm Organizing for America (OFA). With humble heart, the president’s wife asked followers (“the folks who voted to make change real”) to scrounge up “$3 or more to help grow this movement.” The first lady announced an eyebrow-raising pledge program by anonymous donors (so much for transparency) who will “match” every contribution made before November 2. She identified the “Michelle Match” participants as “teachers and firefighters, truckers and nurses” — which may be Obama code for Big Labor and its $88 million midterm-campaign war chest.
Remember: Obscuring funding sources is par for the course at Chez Obama. OFA is run by David Plouffe, the Chicago wunderkind of astroturfing and a senior adviser at AKPD Message and Media. That’s the public-relations firm founded by fellow Chicago guru and White House senior adviser David Axelrod, who has long specialized in disguising special-interest cash to create the illusion of grassroots support.
While she panders publicly to the hoi polloi, Mrs. Obama will shake the money tree behind closed doors for some of Washington’s wealthiest Democratic officeholders. Next week, she’ll return to her native Chicago to raise money for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate from Illinois Alexi Giannoulias. The president drummed up $1 million for the beleaguered state treasurer in August and will himself fly back to Chicago on Friday to raise more money for the scandal-plagued Giannoulias — who is locked in a tight race with moderate-Republican challenger Rep. Mark Kirk.
Giannoulias is the basketball buddy of Mrs. Obama’s husband and brother. He worked for his family’s now-defunct subprime sleazeball financial institution, Broadway Bank. Reminder: This is the place where Obama parked his 2004 Senate-campaign funds. It’s the same place where a mutual friend of Obama and Giannoulias — convicted Obama fundraiser/slumlord Tony Rezko — used to bounce nearly $500,000 in bad checks written to Las Vegas casinos. And it’s the same place that lent an estimated $27 million to mob crooks Michael “Jaws” Giorango and Demitri Stavropoulos.
Faced with increased scrutiny from local Chicago media and Republican critics, Giannoulias has attempted to minimize his executive role at the shady institution and told voters he had largely left Broadway Bank in 2005. But he admitted this week that he benefited from a massive $2.7 million tax deduction by reporting to the IRS that he had worked some 500 hours for the company in 2006. The claim allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes in 2009.
No word on whether Vice President Joe Biden has questioned Giannoulias’s patriotism yet. Perhaps Mrs. Obama — whom her hubby calls his “moral center” — will pipe up.
After helping Giannoulias, Mrs. Obama will travel to Colorado to stump for Democratic senator Michael Bennet, who is trailing upstart GOP Senate nominee Ken Buck. Bennet is a former high-powered lawyer and financier who made a fortune in the very corporate world Mrs. Obama tirelessly condemned during the 2008 presidential season. As head of the Denver Public Schools, Bennet drew on his high-risk-finance background to champion an “exotic” bond deal that later cost the system at least $25 million.
East Wing spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter, touting the first lady’s popularity on the campaign trail, says Mrs. Obama’s strength is advocating “what we can do together to build a better future. . . . She comes to this as a mom, and that’s the lens through which she sees the world, and that’s her test for every issue — what it means for her daughters and all of our kids.”
So: What grade does Mrs. Obama give Bennet’s debt-exploding school-financing schemes?
From Colorado, the first lady will take the two-faced show to California. As she pushes her husband’s message of shared sacrifice and business-as-usual bashing, she’ll head to a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee gala co-hosted in San Francisco by jet-setting Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi — one of Capitol Hill’s wealthiest members and land barons, who took in twice as much lobbyist cash this election cycle as reviled House GOP leader John Boehner.
If her hubby’s recent fundraising complaints are any indication, we can look forward to more trademark griping from Martyr Michelle. At a $30,000-per-person dinner last weekend, the put-upon president lamented that he needed a “little break and some Tuscan sun.” Behold the fist-bumping Obamas on the stump: two privileged phonies for the price of one.