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Originally published Sunday, June 24, 2012 at 8:26 PM

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Obama leads Romney in race for money in state

President Obama has raised $4.9 million from Washington state donors in his re-election bid over the past 13 months. That's three times what Republican challenger Mitt Romney has raised in the state, but is less than what Obama had brought in at this point in 2008.

Seattle Times staff reporters

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President Obama's spin through Washington state last month helped add more than $560,000 to his campaign coffers, putting the state in the top 10 go-to places the president tapped in May for his re-election bid, according to the latest campaign-finance reports.

The amount is more than three times what Republican challenger Mitt Romney raised in direct contributions to his campaign from Washington last month. But it's a pittance compared with the big money being hauled in by the so-called super PACs that can spend unlimited amounts on a candidate's behalf.

An analysis by the political website Politico showed that Romney, his super PAC allies and the Republican Party bested the president in total fundraising last month, raking in $86 million, about $21 million more than team Obama.

But none of the big money — or at least the donations the candidates are legally required to disclose — came from Washington state.

The state is considered a safe bet for Obama, who passed through Seattle on a one-day fundraising sweep in May for a $35,800-per-couple fundraiser at the Lake Washington home of Ann and Bruce Blume, and a $1,000-per-person fundraising concert and rally at the Paramount Theatre.

Romney popped into the Seattle area for his own fundraiser earlier this month. Donations from that visit won't be reported until later.

Campaign records show that the date of the president's fundraisers was the third-best day for Obama's campaign in May, the period covered by the most recent campaign filings. May 9, when the president announced his support for gay marriage, proved to be the second-biggest day for the campaign, with $1.83 million raised nationally, records show.

The latest campaign-finance reports show that Obama has raised $4.9 million in Washington for his re-election effort over the past 13 months. That compares with $1.5 million for Romney over the same period, although the former Massachusetts governor only became the all-but-official Republican nominee in May.

Still, so far the president has raised less money from Washington this election than he did in 2008. At this time four years ago, he had banked about $754,000 more from donors in the state than this time around, according to campaign-finance records.

Big-money donors from Washington who gave to Obama in 2008 appear to be sticking with him.

In the previous election, Obama's team boasted that nearly half of the total number of contributions nationally came in amounts of $200 or less. (An analysis by the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute later showed that some donors gave that amount several times, and the number of small donors who contributed $200 or less was 26 percent.) Small donors still make up a large portion of the donations.

But while the president has attracted new donors, some previous supporters haven't opened their wallets this time around.

Lisa Fitzhugh, of Seattle, gave $2,300 to Obama in 2008. She said she still plans to vote for him in November, but will not contribute this year because she no longer believes in politics as a vehicle for change.

"I have gotten pretty disillusioned by the whole political situation," said Fitzhugh, a consultant and former executive director of Arts Corps, a nonprofit she founded to support and provide arts education in public schools. "Everyone's angry and trying to pick a fight. That is so uninspiring, and so far afield from where we need to be."

Fitzhugh said she would rather work for change among her neighbors by having civil discussions with people whose views differ from hers.

"If the system depends on Obama raising more money than Romney, it's a sign that we've lost our way, and money has become our god," she said.

Nancy Farr, of Winthrop, Okanogan County, who contributed $440 to Obama in 2008, has no plans to contribute this year, even though she still plans to vote for him.

"I am not following politics," she explained. "I have other focus for my time, money and energy."

Although most of Obama's donors give smaller amounts, the president also has benefited from rich supporters who not only give to the candidate and the national Democratic Party, but tap into their social and professional networks to raise money for him. Those supporters are called "bundlers" because they deliver the checks they collect to the candidate in one large bundle.

An analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that examines the role of money in politics, identified 532 bundlers to Obama's campaign as of March 31. Among the top bundlers from Washington:

• Former Microsoft director Suzan LeVine, of Seattle, who has bundled $565,258 for the president's re-election efforts.

• Former Microsoft President Jon Shirley, of Medina, who held a fundraiser for Obama last fall and has bundled $615,300 for the president.

• Susan Brotman, of Medina, who is credited with raising $427,150. She and her husband, Costco founder Jeff Brotman, hosted a $17,900-per-person luncheon for Obama at their home in February.

• Microsoft Vice President John Frank, of Bellevue, who raised $82,356.

Donors connected to Microsoft constituted the largest group of contributors to Obama in 2008, and they remained top donors this election cycle, accounting for about $348,000 through March, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' website, opensecrets.org.

Some of those donations have gone to political-action committees (PACs) supporting the president, including Priorities USA Action, which has raised nearly $18.6 million for Obama's re-election. Two $1,000 contributions to the super PAC are the largest local donations so far, according to finance records.

Romney fared better with wealthier donors. Most of the money to his campaign nationally has come from people who gave $2,000 or more. He's also benefiting from large donations to Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting him.

Local contributions to Restore include $75,000 from Walter Schlaepfer, a Merrill Lynch financial adviser from Bellevue; $60,000 from Wayne Perry, owner of Shotgun Creek Investments in Medina; and $50,000 from Buena Vista Investments of Seattle. Gordon Sondland, a real-estate investor, hotel operator and major Republican contributor, is listed in state records as Buena Vista's manager.

Romney identified 25 bundlers who contributed to his election effort, but the list only includes the lobbyists he was legally required to disclose. The Obama campaign disclosed all bundlers.

Susan Kelleher: 206-464-2508 or skelleher@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @susankelleher.

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