Politics & Government

Finance director in it for large haul

Julianna Smoot is the $390 million woman.

So far, at least.

Smoot, the 41-year-old daughter of a retired Sampson County golf pro, has served as Barack Obama's campaign finance director, responsible for raising $390 million – the largest haul in American political history.

Smoot, the oldest of three girls, was born in Southern Pines and grew up there and in Clinton.

After winning a scholarship to Smith College in Massachusetts, she raised money for the school as an undergraduate.

Smoot then moved on to Democratic politics, working for John Edwards' 1998 U.S. Senate campaign and raising more than $100 million for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2006.

She had never worked on a presidential campaign until Obama asked her in January 2007 to combat the Clintons' legendary money-raising machine.

Smoot started with a modest list of contributors to Obama's U.S. Senate campaign and put together a national plan.

Did she imagine raising $390 million?

“No way,” she said.

Much has been made of Obama's ability to raise millions over the Internet. But his campaign has also raised money the old-fashioned way, attracting bundlers who worked their networks of friends and business associates.

Smoot, who lives in Chicago with her boyfriend, said she has had little time for a personal life since joining the campaign, although she did recently go camping – Blackberry at the ready.

“It's a lot of stress,” said her father, Ed Smoot, now retired to the Wake County town of Willow Springs. “She is answering to a lot of people. It's a lot of hours. It's a crazy job.”

His daughter is in Denver this week, looking for even more money.

Her goal?

Raise $197 million more by November.