President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign announced the names Friday of more than 250 campaign “bundlers,” who helped him raise part of his nearly $87 million total. Wall Street donors, meanwhile, are throwing their support behind former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican's biggest fundraiser.
Individuals may donate at most $2,500 to a campaign for the 2012 election. The limit on how much an individual can donate to a campaign began in 1975 after Congress amended the Federal Election Campaign Act. The goal of the regulation was to limit the amount of influence wealthy individuals could have on a candidate. Congress was responding at the time to public outrage at the revelation that President Nixon's 1968 campaign was largely funded by a few wealthy donors.
Today, high-powered fundraisers, known as “bundlers,” collect a large number of individual donations and deliver them together, as a “bundle,” to the campaign. Some campaign finance reform advocates voice concerns that the process, known as “bundling,” is a loophole in campaign finance law because it gives certain individuals, the bundlers, greater influence over a candidate.
President Obama's campaign team announced Friday the names of close to 250 bundlers, called “volunteer fundraisers,” on its campaign website. Obama voluntarily chose to publish the names. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) does not require candidates to name bundlers (unless they are registered lobbyists), but as an advocate of greater transparency in campaign finance, the Obama campaign risked the appearance of a double standard had it not released the names.
The website does not show exactly how much each bundler raised, but breaks them up into four separate categories: $50,000-$100,000; $100,000-$200,000; $200,000-$500,000; and, more than $500,000. Some of the prominent names on the list of bundlers who raised more than $500,000, include former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, Dreamworks CEO and film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Vogue fashion editor Anna Wintour.
OpenSecrets.org estimates that at least 40 percent, or $34.95 million, of the $86 million total raised for Obama's reelection came from the bundlers. That number, however, only represents a minimum. Since the exact amount each bundler raised is not provided, and the amount ultimately raised by those in the more than $500,000 category is unknown, the exact proportion of Obama's fundraising that comes from bundlers can be anywhere between 40 and 100 percent.
The Obama campaign touted this week that 98 percent of its contributions were $250 or less. There is no way to know, however, what portion of those contributions came from bundlers, unless the campaign chooses to reveal that information in the future.
All candidates are required by law to report registered lobbyists who bundle. Romney's campaign reported six lobbyist-bundlers who raised $517,450, or about 3 percent of his $18.38 million total for the second quarter. None of the current field of Republican candidates, including Romney, has released the names of bundlers who are not registered lobbyists.
Wall Street interests seem to be favoring Romney. An analysis of FEC data conducted by Bloomberg showed that employees of Goldman Sachs gave Romney $238,250, which is not much different from the $234,275 he received from Goldman employees four years ago. Obama, on the other hand, received $994,795 from Goldman employees four years ago, but has only received $10,113 from Goldman employees so far this year.
This should come as no surprise. Obama signed a law with major reforms of the financial industry a year ago, while Romney has been critical of that law. Obama also speaks derisively of “Wall Street bankers” in many of his speeches.
Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty raised $4.1 million in the second quarter. Two of President George W. Bush's top bundlers recently signed on to help him raise more.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) raised $3.6 million. Two million dollars of that amount came from her congressional campaign's war chest. Donors of less than $200 contributed $1.1 million of the total, an impressive show considering that she only entered the race in mid-June.
FEC reports showed that some well-known celebrities donated to Obama's campaign, including Sharon Stone, Tom Hanks, Eddie Murphy, and George Clooney.
Obama's campaign website also sells numerous campaign paraphernalia, such as hats, mugs, and pins to aid his fundraising effort. For $25 you can buy a t-shirt that pokes fun at the “birther” controversy. Obama's picture is on the front with the words “Made in the USA” below them. On the back is a photo of Obama's birth certificate.
Second quarter fundraising reports were due at midnight Friday.