Wednesday July 11, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- In an effort to pump up the coffers of President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, first lady Michelle Obama is planning a swing through Western Massachusetts on Friday, Aug. 3, including a stop at the Colonial Theatre.

Mrs. Obama will attend a reception there hosted by Gov. Deval Patrick and his wife, Diane, at 3 p.m., featuring a performance by James Taylor, a longtime Obama supporter who campaigned for him earlier this year as well as in 2008.

Tickets start at $150 each; distribution plans remain to be announced.

Mrs. Obama, who will begin her visit to the region with a luncheon at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield at $2,500 per ticket, is also slated to meet with 25 invited guests at the Patricks' home in Richmond. Tickets to the governor's gathering, described by campaign officials as a roundtable discussion and dinner, will begin at $20,000 each, with all proceeds benefiting the Obama Victory Fund.

Patrick, a longtime friend of Obama, is a co-chairman of his re-election campaign.

"I am thrilled that first lady Michelle Obama will be visiting Western Mas sachusetts and it is truly an honor to welcome her to the Commonwealth," said the governor in a prepared statement. "The first lady's commitment to keeping the American dream within reach for all Americans is unwavering, as seen in her work on behalf of military families, supporting the health and well-being of our children, and so much more."

Preliminary plans for the Colonial visit were completed over the weekend, said Kim Taylor, wife of the singer-songwriter. Official confirmation came from Oba ma campaign officials in Wash ington, D.C., and Boston on Tuesday afternoon after area media, including The Eagle, posted stories online. First word of the campaign swing came from the Daily Hampshire Gazette in North ampton, which quoted two area attorneys who had worked for the past several months to organize the Springfield appearance.

Gov. Patrick is set to attend the Basketball Hall of Fame event, along with U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, who is campaigning for a Democratic primary victory Sept. 6 against challengers Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. and activist-writer Bill Shein in the 1st Massachusetts District.

"Through her tireless support for our nation's veterans and their families, to her work to end child obesity, Michelle Obama has distinguished herself as an effective and influential advocate for the American people," Neal said in a prepared statement. "She is also one of the most popular and admired women in the country."

Former first lady Laura Bush visited the Berkshires in 2006 to help raise funds for The Mount in Lenox. She also visited the Edith Wharton home privately last year.

Then-first lady Hillary Clin ton came in 1998 to help fundraising efforts for the Colonial Theatre as part of the Save America's Treasures campaign, jump-starting the Pittsfield landmark's $23 million renovation project.

The Obama campaign had more than $109 million available as of May 31, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings, having spent $147 million previously.

His challenger, former Mas sachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has a current total of $160 million and raised more than $100 million in June alone, while the Obama campaign tallied $71 million for the month.

"If you listen to coverage of this election, one has the sense that it is happening somewhere other than Mas sachusetts, that there are a handful of swing states in other parts of the country that will determine the election," John P. Pucci, the Northampton attorney who helped organize the Spring field leg of Mrs. Obama's visit, told the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton. "The fundraiser is a reflection of the fact that the president and first lady are not taking us for granted."

Obama re-election campaign supporters have expressed concern over the fundraising prowess of super-PACs (Polit ical Action Committees) which can spend freely and anonymously following the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court Citizens Unit ed ruling.

So far, the Romney campaign has benefited from $7.2 million in advertising paid for by the super-PACs, while the Obama re-election forces have spent $2.8 million.

Information from the Daily Hampshire Gazette was included in this report.

To reach Clarence Fanto:
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