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ABC News' Missed Opportunity to Quiz a Frontrunner

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by Cody Lyon 

Thanks in part to a still common reliance on 'rabbit ears,' record numbers of viewers tuned in to the ABC News Democratic Presidential debate this past Wednesday night.

     What they witnessed was Barack Obama fumble and Hillary Clinton stretch, under the pressure of trivial irrelevance during the first portion of a live prime time meet up, and the viewing experience left many clearly upset.

    What many appeared to be most miffed about was the unusual barrage of seemingly un-important salvos leveled by moderators Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos at Senator Barack Obama.

     The truth is, voters should be upset, because if the moderators were looking to perform some sort of hit job on Senator Obama, they could have at least attempted to aim above the belt and attack issues of substance and relevance.

    Folks are really not so concerned over whether Obama attended a fund raiser at the home of a 60's radical or whether his church was friendly with Louis Farakhan.  Those juicy tidbits might make for a great shrill headline or a slimy Republican attack ad.

    Voters with real concerns might rather know, if for instance, special and corporate interests are looking to curry favor in a future Obama or Clinton administration

     In Obama's case, why not take a closer look at campaign finance money trails and confront the highly promoted "agent of change" about his financially cozy relationships with Washington insiders and corporate influence peddlers?

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    After all, its those well moneyed players who might someday seek to influence policy that could potentially impact day to day lives across the nation.

    During the ABC debate, Obama said "I believe that change does not happen from the top down, it happens from the bottom up."

    He went on to say "that's why we decided we weren't going to take PAC money or money from federal registered lobbyists, that we were not going to be subject to special interest influence, but instead we were going to enlist the American people in a project of changing this country" Obama said Wednesday on ABC.

    But despite the drum beat of that message, according to an April 11, 2008 article by Matthew Mosk and Alec MacGillis of the "The Washington Post," "wealth and power also played have also played a critical role in creating Obama's fundraising machine, and their generosity has earned them a prominent voice in shaping his campaign."

    According to the "Post" article, a large portion of Obama's campaign money has come from seventy nine "bundlers" who helped recruit more than 27 thousand donors to write checks for $2,300, the maximum allowed.  The "Post" reported that donors who have given more than $200 account for about half of Obama's total haul of $240 million.

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    According to the non partisan group Public Citizen, Bundling describes the activity of fundraisers who pool a large number of campaign contributions from political action committees (PACs) and individuals. Bundlers, who are often corporate CEOs, lobbyists, hedge fund managers or independently wealthy people, are able to funnel far more money to campaigns than they could personally give under campaign finance laws.

    The "Washington Post" article says that in Obama's case, the list of bundlers includes traditional Democratic givers like trial lawyers and also includes partners from 18 top law firms, 21 Wall Street executives and power brokers from Fortune 500 companies.

    The bundling groups include businessmen like billionaire Kenneth Griffin who started backing Obama just as he hired a team of lobbyist to urge Congress to preserve a "lucrative tax loophole," according to the "Washington Post."

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Cody Lyon is an Alabama native who is a freelance writer in New York City.

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