Begging for ‘Dinner with Obama’ Dollars

COMMENTARY | Barack Obama’s campaign team first launched the “Dinner with Obama” idea in mid-June by offering raffle tickets for as little as $5. By the end of the month, that same five bucks bought you a chance for a two-for-one special: “Dinner with Barack and Joe.”

On Wednesday, Holly Bailey of Yahoo! News reported on a curious e-mail sent to supporters by the president’s wife, Michelle.

I began receiving a flurry of these emails on Tuesday, each one addressing me as, “Friend.” The first was from Michelle’s husband, Barack Obama.

“I enjoy talking about fundraising deadlines as much as I imagine you enjoy hearing about them,” the president began. “But this Friday’s deadline is important.”

Friday midnight is the cut-off for upping the total of his lethargic campaign contributions for this quarter and if things don’t improve quickly, he won’t make that billion dollar jackpot he bragged about raking in this election cycle.

In fact, it’s that deadline was so important that he was the one to initially slash the price of his raffle tickets from $5 to $3. He also promised to be “calling some grassroots donors” just like me so he could thank me personally. Of course he provides the link where I can go to make my donation of “$3 or more.”

“And if I don’t call you,” he taunted, “there’s a chance I’ll see you at dinner with three other supporters sometime soon.”

It was the e-mail that arrived on Wednesday that was from Michelle.

“Not everyone knows how to prepare for a dinner like this,” the first lady opens. I mean, these e-mails are going out to the common folk so “as someone who’s eaten countless meals with” with her husband she felt it necessary to inform us that “the one thing to do if you’re selected to join him” is to “just relax” because “Barack wants this dinner to be fun.”

She too provided the link where I could “donate $3 or more today” link and hoped that I would “take him up on it before Friday’s deadline.”

E-mail number three arrived Thursday from Rufus Gifford, the national finance director over at Obama for America. In case the desperation was not already made clear enough by the president and his wife, Gifford felt the need to do it himself.

“I know we’ve been sending you a lot of email lately,” Gifford admits. “That’s because we’re staring down a critical fundraising deadline tomorrow at midnight,” and, while many Americans are struggling to put food on their own tables he whines about having to survive on ” too much coffee” and eating “more pizza and bad takeout in the past few weeks than anyone should have in a year.”

Knowing that many who received the e-mails might be unemployed and might struggle to sympathize with a man who still has a job, Gifford employed the guilt tactic by informing readers: “It’s been way too long since we called our moms,” at which point he provides the donation link — again — but this time begs me to “chip in just $3 today” rather than “$3 or more.”

On Friday, deadline day, I got another e-mail from Obama.

“Because you and I don’t have a lot of chances to have dinner together,” the president explains, “I hope you’ll take advantage of the one that’s coming up this fall.” But with the clock running out the “just $3″ but for “whatever” I can “pitch in.”

Around 4 p.m. I received another e-mail from Vice President Joe Biden.

“I need to ask you one last thing before tonight’s midnight deadline,” he presses urgently. “If you know you’re going to donate to this campaign eventually, what’s stopping you from doing it right now?”

I’m guessing they aren’t meeting their eleventh-hour donation goals and panic is setting in big time.

“So, before midnight,” Biden begs pitifully, “will you chip in what you can and say you’re in?”

Curiously, the smallest dollar amount listed on the Obama 2012 donation page is $10. Of course you can pick “other” if you want. But you might want to check out the disclaimer at the bottom of the donation page first.

“No purchase, payment, or contribution necessary to enter or win. Contributing will not improve chances of winning.”

So, my question is this: If you just want to have dinner with Obama and the contest is on the up-and-up — if you don’t have to donate $3 or even “whatever you can pitch in” to enter and that even donating the $2,500 maximum won’t “improve your chances of winning” — what’s the point of donating at all?

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