Charlotte: Wall Street South feeling banking industry's troubles

Bank of America Corp. and Wachovia Corp., while not immune to the crisis that has plagued rivals, have helped keep Charlotte's economy afloat. But, a string of events has left the city dubbed Wall Street South praying for a good old-fashioned Southern revival.

Chuck Burton

SAN FRANCISCO -- President Barack Obama is preaching an economic message aimed at the 99 percent and raising campaign cash among the 1 percent, walking an election year tightrope complicated by the need for hundreds of millions of dollars at a time of high unemployment.

At a beachside community in southern California on Thursday, fresh off a dinner that included actor George Clooney, Obama was in the middle of a three-day fundraising tour through opulent homes along California's coast.

The president hauled in $750 million in 2008, shattering records, and his campaign has outpaced his Republican opponents, collecting more than $220 million in 2011 even as it faces the prospect of hundreds of millions from GOP-backed groups targeting his re-election.

Obama's campaign has mastered the art of raising money among the masses. In 2011 the campaign said it received money from 1.3 million donors, including 583,000 people who gave during the final three months of the year.

More than 98 percent of supporters gave donations of $250 or less, and the average donation was $55.

Yet a list of prominent donors released by the campaign shows nearly 450 well-heeled backers who have collectively steered at least $74.7 million to the president's campaign so far. Sixty-two of them collected at least $500,000 each, including movie producers Jeffrey Katzenberg and Harvey Weinstein, and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

California, where Obama scheduled six fundraisers during this three-day trip, figured most prominently on his roster of big-money "bundlers." Sixteen are from California; 13 are from New York.

Fundraising is an inescapable aspect of politics, and candidates from both parties tap deep-pocketed supporters for cash and for help raising more from their network of wealthy friends.

Many of those donors are the same ones who Obama is referring to when he tells audiences that the rich must pay a greater share in taxes.