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Sen. Obama might be just Obama without law written by Sen. McCain

June 27, 2008 |  1:02 am

Funny how things go around and come around.

In his initial run for the U.S. Senate in 2004, this fellow Barack Obama, who we seem to be hearing a lot about these days, was onThe presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obamae of the very first beneficiaries of the so-called millionaire’s amendment that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Thursday.

Obama’s main Democratic primary foe that year was Blair Hull, a wealthy investor who poured $28 million of his own money into the campaign.

But under that same national campaign finance law, Hull’s immense personal spending on himself released Obama from the $2,100 per donor cap then in effect.

And it allowed him to raise his own campaign money in increments up to $12,000 per donor.

That national campaign finance law was co-written by another now familiar name, John McCain, the senator from Arizona.

Now, McCain is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who will face Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, on Nov. 4 to become president of these United States. Talk about unintended consequences.

Some analysts believe that Obama might well have lost that crucial first step onto the national political stage without the financial boost he received from McCain's law allowing him to gather....

... sums in excess of that $2,100 cap. He certainly would have been unable to finance statewide television advertising.

And then, talk about luck, an Illinois court also helped Obama further when it unsealed Hull’s divorce filing, allowing Chicago newspapers to report embarrassing details about the millionaire’s marriage at about the same time as the ads for this fresh Obama face began airing.

But, wait! His luck wasn't over. In the ensuing general election, Obama faced Republican millionaire investor Jack Ryan. But, would you believe it, an alleged sex scandal involving his ex-wife forced him out of the race. And the Illinois GOP -- talk about desperate -- turned to that political powerhouse, Alan Keyes, who was destroyed by newcomer Obama.

In an interview with The Times' Dan Morain, Jim Cauley, who was Obama's senate campaign manager, said: “Do I think (the millionaires' amendment) helped us? Absolutely.” But Cauley believes Obama would have won the primary anyway.

Cauley’s goal had been to get Obama to 33%-36% of the primary vote in the seven-way race. But instead the state senator ended up capturing 53% of the vote.

With that added money, Obama was able to go up on TV with campaign ads in the crucial and heavily-populated Chicago area a full two weeks earlier than planned. Then, on the final weekend of that 2004 campaign, he could also afford to air ads statewide. Those spots were broadcast from St. Louis to Paducah, Ky., covering rural southern Illinois.

“I definitely think it helped with the size of the win,” said Cauley, currently chief of staff to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.

A review of Obama’s receipts in 2003 and 2004 shows he raised $1.7 million in donations in excess of the maximum then in effect of $2,100, or roughly 28% of the $6 million he raised for the primary. Of that, $360,000 flowed in donations of the new maximum of $12,000, and $450,000 came in donations of $10,000.

According to campaign finance figures unciovered by Morain, liberal billionaire George Soros and at least four other members of his family each gave Obama $12,000 donations that year. Also, among those who gave $10,000 checks was a fellow with another now familiar name, Antoin 'Tony' Rezko. A local Illinois powerbroker and fundraiser, Rezko was an early Obama supporter and political patron. He was recently convicted in a federal public corruption case.

For some reason old pal Tony's not featured prominently on the Obama for president campaign site.

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo credit: AP