By Aaron Mehta, Fred Schulte and Elizabeth Lucas
iWatch News | News Report
From The Center for Public Integrity
President Barack Obama’s campaign added 90 new big-money bundlers in the fourth quarter, bringing its army of major backers to 445, according to information released by the campaign Tuesday.
Total funds raised by bundlers — well-connected groups of fundraisers who tap their networks to collect large bundles of checks — reached at least $74.4 million.
The newest bundlers accounted for at least $8.2 million. A total of 78 previous bundlers increased the amount they collected.
More than 60 bundlers have now gathered contributions totaling at least $500,000 for the president, a sharp contrast to the campaign’s claims of reliance on small-figure donors. And as with previous bundler disclosures, the list includes a number of individuals who have received appointments and invitations to the White House.
There is no legal requirement for campaigns to disclose the names of their bundlers, and despite cries from good government groups, none of the Republican candidates have shown a willingness to publicly name their star donors.
In 2008, major candidates from both parties released their bundler information; so far this cycle only the Obama campaign has followed that practice.
The campaign discloses its bundlers in four levels: $50,000-100,000; $100,000-200,000; $200,000-500,000 and $500,000 or more. It is impossible to tell exactly how much each bundler raised, but it is possible to arrive at a minimum dollar amount — at least $74.4 million.
At the end of the third quarter, bundlers had raised a minimum of $55 million.
As of Dec. 31, there were 140 bundlers at the $50,000-$100,000 level; 119 at the $100,000-$200,000 range; 125 at the $250,000-$500,000 range and 61 at the $500,000-plus level.
The $74.4 million doesn’t all go to the Obama campaign — it goes to the “Obama Victory Fund,” a joint fundraising committee consisting of the campaign and the Democratic National Committee. It is not known how much of the total went to the campaign and how much went to the DNC.
The maximum contribution to the party is $30,800 per person. The maximum contribution to the campaign is $5,000 – $2,500 for the primary and $2,500 for the general election.
The campaign itself reported raising $39 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The records released on Tuesday show that some of the 2008 bundlers who were missing in previous 2012 disclosures signed on again this quarter, among them several people who had previously served in the administration on boards and commissions.
For example, Chicagoan Howard Gottlieb and New Yorker Margot Lion were both appointed by Obama to serve on the President’s Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Both were 2008 bundlers and both have returned for 2012, raising at least $50,000 each. Lion is a New York theater producer.
Obama has taken fire from Republicans for appointing mega donors to administration posts, some largely ceremonial and others advisory. But that criticism has done nothing to keep the administration from giving these donors a role in the White House.
A recent iWatch News report found that at least 68 of 350 Obama bundlers for the 2012 election or their spouses have served in the administration in some form; at least 250 of the bundlers visited the White House, and another 30 have ties to companies that conduct business with federal agencies or hope to do so in the future.
At least four of the first-time 2012 Obama bundlers named this quarter have already been appointed to an administration post. Norma Lee Funger, of Potomac, Md., was appointed by Obama on Jan. 18, 2011 to the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Glenn S. Gerstell, of Washington, D.C., who has bundled at least $50,000 for the 2012 campaign, was appointed as a member of the National Infrastructure Advisory Commission on Sept. 9, 2011, according to White House records.
Richard Binder, of Bethesda, Md., also has bundled $50,000 or more. Obama appointed him to the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health, May 13, 2011.
On June 8, 2011, Obama announced his intent to appoint Giselle Fernandez to the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She is a former television journalist.
White House officials have denied that big donors receive special favors and insist that all appointments are based on merit.
Among the donors who stepped up their giving this cycle: Thomas Caranahan, a member of the prominent Missouri political family and the founder of the Lost Creek Wind Farm in DeKalb County, Mo.
Lost Creek was awarded $107 million in stimulus funding in July 2010. Carnahan corralled at least $100,000 for the 2008 campaign and in the third-quarter disclosure was listed at the $200,000 to $500,000 level for the campaign; in the new filing, he is listed at the $500,000-plus level.
Carnahan said in a statement that the project was one of thousands that qualified for grant money and has been generating electricity for “over a year and providing tax revenue, new jobs and other ongoing investments to the community.” He added: “Efforts to link my personal support for President Obama to the success of this project … simply have no basis in fact.”
Reprinted by permission from iWatch News
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