Cash brings Obama back to town

Visit today may raise $2.2m

By Donovan Slack
Globe Staff / May 18, 2011

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WASHINGTON — President Obama is scheduled to sweep through Boston today for the second time in three months, tapping the deep pockets of Massachusetts supporters to help raise what analysts predict could be $1 billion for his reelection bid.

Obama plans to attend a fund-raiser this afternoon at the Boston Center for the Arts in the South End and then another at the Brookline residence of advertising mogul Jack Connors, where supporters will pay up to $35,800 per couple to dine on poached shrimp and beef tenderloin with the president.

The Bay State, with its concentration of medical, technology, and financial executives, has been a gold mine for Democrats, ranking fourth among states in contributions to the party in 2008 and 2010. That trend is continuing this year, with big-money contributors already giving more than $1.6 million in the first quarter.

“It’s not very hard to convince him to come to Massachusetts,’’ state party chairman John Walsh said yesterday. “There’s just an outpouring of support — personal, financial, and otherwise.’’

Some 900 supporters, including Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell and All-Star Ray Allen, are expected at the center’s Cyclorama in the South End. Another 130 guests are expected at the dinner.

In all, Obama could raise more than $2.2 million. The money will be distributed to the national party and the president’s reelection campaign. During his last trip to Boston, in March, he raised about half that amount at an event at the Museum of Fine Arts.

The president has been crisscrossing the country, rapidly reeling in contributions since announcing his intention several weeks ago to seek reelection next year. He’s attended fund-raisers at Austin City Limits in Texas, at a star-studded gala in Hollywood, and a neighborhood restaurant in Harlem, in New York.

His quick return to Boston, however, reflects the outsize role the Bay State plays filling the campaign coffers of Democratic candidates and causes.

Obama raised $760 million for his presidential run in 2008, the most in history. About $21 million came from Massachusetts, trailing only California, New York, and Illinois, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He is expected to exceed the national amount this time, even though he is unlikely to have a primary challenger.

“A lot of people think the president comes here because there are a lot of Democrats, but the real reason he comes here is because there are a lot of Democrats willing to give him money,’’ Boston-based Democratic strategist Michael Goldman said.

The fervor of Tea Party movement activists and politicians has galvanized the conservative wing of the Republican Party, but Goldman said they are not the only inspired voters.

“We tend to think that the passions are only in the red states, whether it’s antigay or antiguns,’’ he said. “The truth is that here, the president’s positions on gay marriage, for example, his positions on education, his positions on the environment evoke the same passions as other messages do on the other side.’’

As for funding for the Democratic Party, only the heavily populated states of California, New York, and Texas outrank the Bay State, according to data compiled from federal campaign reports by the Center for Responsive Politics. Massachusetts residents gave $17.1 million in federal contributions during the 2008 election cycle. California residents gave $68.5 million.

Per capita, Massachusetts donors outspent the Golden State: $2.63 average for every person in the Bay State vs. $1.86 in California.

As Republican candidates begin to battle in what is expected to be an expensive primary, the president is already in high fund-raising gear.

“He’s going directly to where the money’s at. Boston is about as good as it gets for him, short of a New York City or LA,’’ said Dave Levinthal, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics.

Among the top Democratic supporters in Massachusetts are technology executives Paul Egerman of eScription, which specializes in digital transcription for the medical industry, and Paul Sagan of Akamai Technologies, as well as former Google executive Laura DeBonis. The list also includes litigation attorney Michael P. Thornton and Concord residents Nancy and Reinier Beeuwkes III.

Nancy Beeuwkes said yesterday that she and her husband believe deeply in the ideals that Democrats represent, particularly the president’s commitment to education and research. Her husband, Reinier, is a former faculty member at Harvard Medical School who has cofounded and run pharmaceutical companies. She is a retired nurse.

“Mainly the Democratic Party cares about people,’’ she said.

The Beeuwkeses received an invitation to the White House Christmas party in past years, and they attended Obama’s fund-raiser in Boston in March. The couple, who have contributed $590,000 to Democrats since 2007, won’t be able to attend tonight’s fund-raisers, she said.

Connors, who will host Obama at his home, said yesterday that he had never been involved in presidential politics aside from voting before meeting Obama in 2007. He said he and his wife were “really impressed’’ and believe he has lived up to their expectations during his years in the White House.

Connors said he believes the president has been a good role model during an era when role models are scarce. And he appreciates the president’s style of leadership.

“He’s showed a great deal of patience; he doesn’t have a trigger finger,’’ he said. “He says what he thinks is right and does it on his own timetable.’’

Connors expects Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas M. Menino for dinner, as well as his four grown children and their spouses. He said organizers have had to construct a tent in the yard to accommodate everyone on what’s expected to be a rainy, cool night.

Before he arrives in Boston, Obama is scheduled to stop in Connecticut and deliver the keynote address at the US Coast Guard Academy graduation ceremony. He is expected to return to Washington after the fund-raisers tonight.

Donovan Slack can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @DonovanSlack.