A light on big fundraisers
Candidates should name bundlers and the amounts they raise.
APOLLO, VOYAGER, Endeavour. These familiar names no longer belong only to space shuttles: They’re also how Jeb Bush is categorizing his top donors in the 2016 presidential race. We hope Mr. Bush will attach identities to those titles and make them public, as he has promised. We also hope other candidates who have not yet disclosed their campaign bundlers will do the same.
Mr. Bush has pledged to release the names of high-achieving individual fundraisers in October at the third-quarter Federal Election Commission deadline. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has made the same promise. That’s a big change from 2012, when no Republican candidate volunteered any more information than the law required, and a welcome one. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has already released the names of bundlers dubbed “Hillblazers” who have raised at least $100,000 for her campaign.
Candidates such as Mr. Bush and Mr. Walker are right to follow Ms. Clinton’s lead. The rest of the pack should, too. Bundlers get huge perks for their fundraising efforts — for many of President Obama’s campaign supporters, even ambassadorships. The public deserves to know who these favored backers are and how much they are giving.
In fact, even Ms. Clinton has not gone far enough. Though she has provided a blanket list of bundlers who have raised more than $100,000, she has not broken that list down by the amounts raised, as Mr. Obama did for donations above $50,000 in his two campaigns. Who is hauling more than $500,000 for Ms. Clinton? How about $1 million? We do not know. When asked, a campaign spokesman declined to provide any answers.
It’s heartening that Mr. Bush and Mr. Walker — serious contenders for the Republican nomination — have made a move toward transparency, especially when so many fell short last cycle. Today, super PACs package billions of dollars for candidates. Almost every major candidate except Bernie Sanders has at least one as a backer. “Dark money” also streams into presidential and congressional races from nonprofit corporations that can donate unlimited amounts without disclosing individual contributors.
Recently, these issues might have overshadowed bundling on the national stage, but in many ways it is as important as ever. The FEC caps individual contributions at $2,700 for good reason: to limit any one person’s influence on a race and prevent corruption. Yet bundlers retain the ability to exert power and then reap the rewards.
When Mr. Bush and Mr. Walker release the names of their bundlers, they should do it right— with a low threshold for disclosure and a breakdown of bundlers into brackets according to gross amounts raised. Ms. Clinton should also go the extra distance. And those candidates who have done nothing so far should move quickly.