Sen. Barack Obama fundraiser Orin Kramer ’67 told about 30 students Wednesday that the future of political fundraising lies in moving from traditional sources such as rich individuals toward new, often less wealthy people, who can be reached en masse over the Internet.
At a Saybrook College Master’s Tea, Kramer said that, despite being a close friend of Bill Clinton LAW ’73 and Sen. Hillary Clinton LAW ’73, he endorsed Obama even before the primaries began. Kramer, a hedge fund manager and manager of New Jersey’s public pension fund, went on to talk about his experiences in and his point of view on the current financial crisis.
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Kramer said that he was moved to endorse Obama partly because of the candidate’s book, “Dreams from My Father.”
“It had a poetic sensibility that you cannot get from any other book,” he said.
Calling herself an early “Obama girl,” Saybrook Master Mary Miller asked the first question with excitement, about a turning point at which the Obama campaign first received the sudden influx of cash that invigorated his candidacy in the primaries, and how Kramer was able to facilitate that influx.
Kramer said that because the Clinton campaign controlled most of the traditional sources of fundraising — which he referred to as “dinosaurs,” or wealthy givers — Obama’s campaign funds came mostly from tapping new resources and revolutionizing the use of the Internet in fundraising.
“Our funds came mainly from people who have never contributed before and the donors from the Internet phenomenon,” he said.
Kramer then moved on to address the current financial crisis. When asked whether he thought the “decadence” of Wall Street was over, Kramer said that while he doubts decadence will ever disappear from Wall Street, certain aspects of the financial industry have been changed forever.
“The financial services industry will be a smaller piece of the economy than before,” he said. “Hedge funds and deep leveraging have failed, and won’t come back.”
The direction shifted to the presidential race when Miller asked why Obama, in her opinion, became uninspiring in Tuesday night’s debate. Kramer replied that he thinks campaign managers tend to encourage cautious behavior in the final days of the race in order not to alienate still-undecided voters.
“I found [Obama] deeply inspiring,” he added.
Kramer went on to say that the McCain campaign is exhibiting the opposite behavior, pushing an aggressive, high-risk strategy that includes negative campaigning and the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the vice-presidential nominee.
Ending his talk with a broad discussion about the changing economy, Kramer said that Americans must learn to adjust to a world in which the American economy is becoming a smaller part of the world’s GDP.
“When we came out of World War II, we were 50 percent of the world GDP,” he said. “Now, we’re 26 percent, and that number won’t get higher.”
He added that expanding markets offer foreign government-controlled funds alternative places for investment, especially in light of how unstable American markets have shown themselves to be in recent weeks. It will be difficult for Americans to deal with rising prices, Kramer said, but globalization is a net positive force for the world.
Tiffany Ho ’12 said the talk helped her understand the intricacies of presidential fundraising.
“It really has a lot of business aspects,” she said.
Other students interviewed said the talk helped them understand the financial crisis and the role the financial services sector played in it.
“I thought he provided interesting insight on the Obama campaign,” Ryan Rodriguez ’09 said. “It’s also interesting to hear insight on the financial crisis from someone involved for so many years in that field.”
Kramer worked in the Carter administration as an associate director on the domestic policy staff.