Matthew Barzun, a former Lincoln resident who is now US ambassador to Sweden, will give up his diplomatic post to work for President Obama's re-election by overseeing what some have projected could be the country's first $1 billion White House campaign, The Boston Globe has learned.
Barzun, a 40-year-old Harvard College graduate, will serve as national finance chairman for Obama for America, the president's Chicago-based campaign committee. He is replacing Penny Pritzker, the Chicago billionaire who helped raise nearly $750 million for Obama's 2008 campaign.
During the 2012 race, the Obama committee, working in unison with the Democratic National Committee, expects a fierce advertising battle after the Supreme Court struck down a ban on corporate funding of campaign commercials.
"Not only was Matthew Barzun one of the Obama campaign's top fundraisers in 2008, but he also brings strong working relationships with President Obama's supporters from across the country to this race," said a national Democrat who confirmed the appointment today.
In a posting on his ambassadorial blog, Barzun wrote: "Two years ago, President Obama asked me to serve in this great and globally connected nation of Sweden because I understood and believed in his vision for America and its role in the world. ...But now President Obama has asked me to take on a new mission."
Barzun added that he will surrender his post "all too soon," at the end of May.
Earlier today, former Obama aides Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney announced they were forming two outside groups, Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, with the goal of raising $100 million.
They said they will use the money to defend Obama against additional ads sponsored by outside Republican-leaning groups led in the 2012 midterm campaign by former Bush administration adviser Karl Rove and GOP backers Charles and David Koch.
While some political scientists and campaign finance experts have projected Obama could raise over $1 billion in the current campaign, his staff has disputed that. It notes that he won't face the same sizable primary field as he did in 2008, nor will the president have to build his national name recognition as he did in the first campaign.
Yet recalling an ambassador after less than two years in such a plum post underscores the importance the campaign is placing on its overall fund-raising effort, said one Massachusetts Democrat versed in the decision.
Like the national Democrat, the Massachusetts Democrat requested anonymity to speak in advance of a formal announcement.
Barzun, a former executive with CNET Networks, won staff acclaim during the 2008 campaign for using the Internet to organize small-dollar fundraisers. He also contributed the maximum $2,300 to Obama's primary and general election campaigns, plus varying sums to other Democratic candidates and committees.
In his book "The Audacity to Win," Obama's 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe, labeled the concept “citizen fundraisers” that fostered Obama’s connection with his supporters. Plouffe is now senior adviser to the president but remains a top political strategist.
Another former Massachusetts resident, Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, is serving as Obama's deputy campaign manager.
Barzun, his wife, and their three children lived in Louisville, Ky., before he began his posting in Stockholm.
The ambassador is a direct descendant of John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts. He served as a summer intern for Senator John Kerry before graduating from college. Barzun's official embassy profile says he previously was president at BrickPath LLC, where he advised and invested in Internet media companies.
Before that, he served as the executive vice president for CNET Networks' Business Technology group, and previously as chief strategy officer of CNET Networks.
In that role, "he advised the CEO and the executive committee on business and organizational alignment across the company's divisions, including leading the efforts to define and communicate the company's mission, values, and corporate goals," according to the profile.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.