On Tour With Nancy Pelosi, Fundraising Rock Star

This story is part of a Planet Money series on money in politics. Also see our story, “Senator By Day, Telemarketer By Night, and listen to us this weekend on This American Life.

Democrats love Nancy Pelosi. Republicans hate Nancy Pelosi.

One key reason for both the love and the hate: Nancy Pelosi is incredibly good at her job. And a huge part of that job is raising money.

In the last decade, Pelosi has raised close to $300 million for Democrats, according to her political staff. So far, in this election cycle, she’s raised close to $40 million. Pelosi is the party’s top fundraiser by far, outpacing President Obama in some categories.

Last year, Pelosi attended 400 fundraisers. I recently followed her on a non-stop, money-raising swing through Texas. Two days, five or six events, three cities.

The events ranged across a wide spectrum. There was a free event in a municipal gym, where the staff passed out envelopes for donations. And there was a fancy private dinner in the home of Steven Mostyn, a wealthy trial lawyer.

Pelosi gives shout-outs to big supporters. But her speech doesn’t vary much between the gym and the fancy dinner.

In just an hour or two at the fancy dinner, Pelosi pulls in some $300,000 for the Democrats.

Lots of the donors say they hate the outsized influence money has in politics. But they’re putting lots of money into politics. They say they don’t want to unilaterally disarm. They don’t want to go to a baseball game without a bat.

Of course, many Republcian donors say the same thing. They say they can’t just sit pat while wealthy trial lawyers throw cash at Nancy Pelosi.

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