McClatchy Newspapers

CHICAGO – Before her death, Barack Obama’s grandmother in Hawaii gave his presidential campaign $2,300, which is precisely $2,300 more than Obama himself donated to his $639 million, record-breaking war chest.

And in this practice, Obama is in good company. Buried in federal election records is a curious fact: Candidates often don’t financially support their own campaigns.

Records show that Sen. John McCain, he of the seven houses, did not donate to his presidential campaign. Neither did Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Sen. Joe Biden didn’t chip in for his own national run either.

To be fair, Obama’s wife did contribute – though not much. Michelle Obama gave $399 to her husband’s campaign. The Obamas, who earned $4 million last year, sent substantially more money – $4,600 – to Sen. Hillary Clinton, to help her debt-ridden campaign after she quit challenging his nomination.

True, there are wealthy candidates who try to tilt the playing field with tons of their own money. Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, Obama’s pick for chief of staff, was one.

In 2002, Emanuel lent himself $450,000 to win a U.S. House seat. Since then, he hasn’t made a personal political contribution to anybody, Obama included.

An Obama spokesman dodged the question of why the president-elect never donated to his own campaign, saying only that Obama was “deeply grateful for the more than 3 million Americans” who did give.

So next time you hear Obama repeat his signature line about “change we can believe in,” remember this: More than likely, the change isn’t coming from his pocket.

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