Obama SuperPAC Push: What It Might Mean in NYC

The Obama campaign announced this week that it will encourage the president's supporters to give to the SuperPAC backing his reelection effort, and New York donors will be a prime target. A WNYC analysis of disclosure forms shows Romney's SuperPAC raised 44 times more than Obama's in New York last year.

Vogue editor Anna Wintour and actress Scarlett Johansson are hosting a glitzy fundraiser for President Barack Obama reelection campaign in the meatpacking district Tuesday night. But New York Democratic donors may be hearing from another set of fundraisers soon: the SuperPAC backing Obama's reelection effort. 

New Yorkers made up less than four percent of the SuperPAC's haul in 2011, according to documents released last month. By comparison,  Romney's SuperPAC raised a quarter of this money from New Yorkers. By comparison, Obama's campaign has raised slightly more from state residents than Romney's. 

Overall, Obama's SuperPAC raised a seventh of Romney's SuperPAC last year. Romney's is the most well-funded SuperPAC by far.   

And with both Republicans and Democrats now zealously soliciting unlimited political donations for their parallel presidential campaigns this year, it's an open question what these new big-dollar checks for political ads will mean less available money for other things — like charitable causes. 

"I think everybody in the charitable community knows that during a presidential campaign cycle, they may see less giving from their major donors," said Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors president Melissa Berman, who represents high-wealth clients on both sides of the political spectrum.

She said reallocating giving is standard during presidential campaigns, even though philanthropic giving has tax benefits and political donations do not. But it remains unclear how much unlimited SuperPAC fundraising will amplify that phenomenon. 

"We haven't heard anybody specifically say, I'm giving less to charity because I'm going to be putting a few million dollars into a SuperPAC," Berman said. "It's possible though, that that's going to affect how certain wealth holders make their decisions about their money this year.

Last year, though, was a banner year for high-dollar donations. The Journal of Philanthropy reported this week that the country's 50 largest donors gave 10.4 billion dollars, up $7 billion dollars from the year before.