Pharmacist Kalestine Butler and probation officer Sepp Sprietsma party with the President at his Chicago home...
A pharmacist from the crucial battleground state of Florida and a juvenile court officer from Arizona were the two lucky winners of the 'Barack's Birthday' contest, an online sweepstakes offering the chance to rub elbows on Sunday with President Obama as he hosted a fundraiser in the front yard of his Chicago home. About 100 supporters paid $40,000/ticket to attend. First Lady Michelle Obama announced the heavily promoted contest on July 16, and the campaign encouraged donors to enter to "Wish Barack a Happy Birthday, face-to face." Obama for America handpicked the two winners from a pool of 50 supporters, according to the official rules. (Above, the contest logo; no photos of the winners were released)
Winner #1 was Kalestine Butler, the pharmacist, an African American women from a town in Florida, who brought her sister, Karen Foster, as a guest. The campaign did not say what town she is from, but Butler's Twitter profile says she is from Orlando, as does an event page Butler has set up on the campaign's website.
"Kalestine has seen firsthand how important health care reform is, and she believes the President’s leadership will help us move forward on job creation and ending the war in Afghanistan," the campaign said in a statement.
Winner #2 was Sepp Sprietsma, a probation officer from an unnamed town in Arizona, who brought his wife Lisa as his guest.
"Sepp works with the local juvenile court system in Arizona, and teaches GED classes in the evening. He supports President Obama because he is a strong leader who invests in America and fights to keep jobs here," the campaign said.
The winners were not made available to the media. The Obama campaign will use them in videos and other campaign materials to promote the President's platform. The deadline to enter the contest was July 26. The prize package included air fare to Chicago and a one-night hotel stay. The assigned retail value of $1,600 is taxable to winners, who also had to pass background checks and agree to be used in campaign promotional materials throughout eternity.
Mrs. Obama was originally scheduled to attend the Chicago event, but was instead at a fundraiser in Beverly Hills, at a party at pop star Gwen Stefani's house. It was just one stop on her multi-state fundraising swing this weekend. The President's birthday party was one of five fundraisers he attended in Chicago on Sunday, where he raised more than $6.4 million just from tickets.
OFA's big push for the contest...
The push to promote the contest included online ads, a Twitter campaign, and e-mails, including from President Obama. In his first e-mail, the President was upbeat, writing "I'd love for you to be one of my guests," before waxing nostalgic about the Windy City and adding "should be fun." In his final e-mail, on the day of the July 26 entry deadline, he warned that this birthday could be his last in office. (Above: An online ad)
Vice President Joe Biden also e-mailed about the contest, as did campaign aides.
President Obama raised more than $75 million for the month of July, but was still outraised by GOP rival Mitt Romney, who raised $101.3 million.
*The transcript of the President's remarks at the birthday event.
The President has raffled off tickets to other high-profile fundraisers, including to a $40,000/plate dinner at George Clooney's Studio City mansion on May 10th, and to Sarah Jessica Parker's $40,000/plate fundraising dinner in Manhattan on June 14. There have also been five 'dinner with Barack' contests; the sixth is currently underway.
This week, the campaign announced an online contest for the 'Obama Classic,' which offered winners the chance to watch the President play hoops with stars LeBron James and Alonzo Mourning, among others, as well as have dinner with Michael Jordan.
Below, the original invitation for paying guests: