Tuesday August 7, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- First lady Michelle Obama’s fundraising tour through Western Mass achusetts likely raised more than $750,000 for President Obama’s re-election campaign, according to estimates by The Eagle based on ticket prices and attendance at the three events in Springfield, Pittsfield and Richmond on Friday.

At the same time, the campaign left the city and state to cover the expenses associated with the additional security surrounding the trip.

Pittsfield Police Chief Mich ael Wynn estimated the visit cost the city at least $1,370 in additional police manpower.

The Obama campaign de clined to release the exact amount raised during the first lady’s campaign Western Mass achusetts campaign swing, saying that information would be available in its monthly financial filings with the Federal Elections Commission.

The tour, which local organizers described as "very successful," began in Springfield, where Obama attended a $2,500-a-plate luncheon that organizers said drew about 100, raising more than $250,000.

Obama then traveled to Pittsfield, where she spoke to a capacity crowd of about 780 at the Colonial Theatre. Tickets to the event ranged from $125 to $10,000, meaning the event would have easily raised at least $100,000.

From there, Obama went to Gov. Deval Patrick’s home in Richmond for a private roundtable discussion and dinner. Tickets to that event were priced at $20,000 and limited to 20 people, racking up another $400,000 for Obama’s re-election campaign.

"I would say, broadly speaking, it was successful financially, and broadly speaking it was successful in terms of animating and exciting people even more to re-elect the president," said Ben Schwartz, a Massachusetts delegate to the Democratic National Con vention who helped organize the event in Richmond.

The fundraiser comes at a time when Obama has been trailing his presumptive Re publican rival, Mitt Rom ney, in fundraising for three straight months.

Romney’s campaign on Monday reported a July haul of more than $101 million with the Republican National Committee, compared to the $75 million that Obama’s campaign said it had brought in with the Democratic National Committee. Romney also raised more cash than Obama in May and June.

Schwartz said the funds that the Obama campaign took in from the first lady’s Western Massachusetts tour is important, but he said the events are equally valuable in so far as they rallied the president’s liberal Massachusetts base.

"You know very well they’re not worried about how Berkshire County is going to vote," he said. "But these are counties that put people on buses to canvass in New Hampshire and get people in cars to campaign in Ohio. An event such as the one held last week is really helpful in terms of ginning up that enthusiasm.

"Massachusetts is known for that stuff: We export money and volunteers for national Democratic campaigns, be cause we’re not a swing state, but our voters are very capable and good spokespeople, and that can be very helpful."

State and local police said there were no security-related issues during any of the three events.

The State Police Executive Protection Unit provided security for Obama throughout her visit in the state. Agency spokesman Lt. Daniel Richard described the visit as "business as usual" for the unit.

Citing security concerns, he declined to release details about how many troopers were deployed as part of the visit or how much it might have cost the agency. However, he said any costs associated with the special detail would come out of the agency’s general budget.

In Pittsfield, Wynn said the $1,370 cost covered having his department’s special response team on duty for the Pittsfield event.

He called the estimate preliminary and said it doesn’t include the cost of planning that went into the visit.

The city also called on eight officers from North Adams, Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox and Dalton to assist. The cost of that manpower was born by the localities from which they came, he said.

The expense associated with Barack Obama’s campaign stops have been a source of controversy in other localities. A visit to Boston in June cost that police department $84,000 in overtime. Likewise, the president’s June visit to Durham, N.H., cost about $13,000, which the town asked the campaign to cover. It refused, generating debate and leading an anonymous donor to offer to pay for the visit.

Wynn, however, described the cost associated with the first lady’s Pittsfield visit as a regular operating expense. He said he was called on by the Secret Service to provide the assistance, likening it to the mutual aid his officers provide nearby departments on a regular basis.

"Our point of view is, it’s an operational question," he said. "If any other law enforcement agency called us up and said they needed support, we’d put a plan in place to provide that support, just like we’ve done in this case."

Wynn said the special re sponse team’s mission in cludes providing protection for visiting dignitaries, and his officers took pride in providing protection for Obama.

"They did a great job and they were very excited and proud, and they deserve to be," he said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.