Nearly half of $86M Obama haul came from bundlers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY LUKE ROSIAK

The cam­paign fundrais­ing ef­forts of Pres­i­dent Obama raised $86 mil­lion in the past three months from 500,000 peo­ple, but at least $35 mil­lion of it can be traced to just 244 well-con­nected sup­port­ers who col­lected con­tri­bu­tions from wealthy friends.

Just 634 do­na­tions from peo­ple giv­ing $30,000 or more to the Obama Vic­tory Fund com­prise $23 mil­lion, while the 1,335 do­na­tions the fund re­ceived from those giv­ing $250 add up to about $336,000, a Wash­ing­ton Times anal­y­sis shows.

The cam­paign has branded it­self as a new type of po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tion and touted its re­liance on a grass-roots net­work of ev­ery­day peo­ple writ­ing rea­son­ably sized checks.

“Ninety-eight per­cent of all do­na­tions that came in were $250 or less, and our av­er­age do­na­tion was about $69,” Obama cam­paign man­ager Jim Messina said in a video to sup­port­ers.

The dra­matic reach is, in part, a tes­ta­ment to the power of per­sonal re­la­tion­ships, among the mon­eyed elite as with the pop­u­la­tion at large: The math­e­mat­ics of the ranges col­lected by the bundlers and the num­ber of large do­na­tions given sug­gest that nearly ev­ery max­i­mum do­na­tion came af­ter per­sonal con­tact with one of the 244 emis­saries who re­ceived credit for shep­herd­ing it.

But the list, which was vol­un­tar­ily dis­closed by Mr. Obama and in­cludes 27 peo­ple who brought in more than half a mil­lion dol­lars each, at least $13.5 mil­lion among them, is made up of many of the same peo­ple who have had out­sized in­flu­ence on Amer­i­can pol­i­tics for years.

While the fig­ures re­leased by Mr. Obama in­clude only names and lo­ca­tions, a Times anal­y­sis found 25 that likely bun­dled con­tri­bu­tions for John Kerry in 2004. At least 90 worked as bundlers for Mr. Obama when he was a fresh­man sen­a­tor mount­ing a bid for the pres­i­dency in 2008, but oth­ers were bet­ting on his op­po­nents: Ten were rais­ing money for Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton and seven bun­dled for John Ed­wards.

Fed­eral donor his­to­ries of the half of the 244 that could be traced by The Times show that that seg­ment alone, with their im­me­di­ate fam­i­lies, has per­son­ally do­nated $21 mil­lion to U.S. elec­tions in more than 7,800 checks be­tween 2007 and 2010.

Fred Ey­chaner of me­dia com­pany Newsweb Corp., for exam- for Mr. Obama this cy­cle. He and fam­ily mem­bers have given 115 do­na­tions to­tal­ing some $185,000 in the past two cy­cles.

The money has made up sig­nif­i­cant chunks of the wider Demo­cratic ma­chine, with $6.3 mil­lion of the per­sonal do­na­tions by bundlers iden­ti­fied by The Times go­ing to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, $2.4 mil­lion to the Demo­cratic Sen­a­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, and $1.9 mil­lion to its House coun­ter­part.

The busi­ness lead­ers of­ten spread their wealth freely, as if hedg­ing their bets to main­tain fa­vor with who­ever may be in power. In that fig­ure are 118 do­na­tions to Repub­li­cans to­tal­ing $210,000, in­clud­ing $100,000 to the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com-

Just 634 do­na­tions from peo­ple giv­ing $30,000 or more to the Obama Vic­tory Fund com­prise $23 mil­lion, while the 1,335 do­na­tions the fund re­ceived from those giv­ing $250 add up to about $336,000, a Wash­ing­ton Times anal­y­sis shows.

ple, made 73 fed­eral-level po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions to­tal­ing $700,000 dur­ing the 2008 and 2010 elec­tions be­fore join­ing the ranks of Mr. Obama’s low­est tier of bundlers, those rais­ing be­tween $50,000 and $100,000. Mr. Obama ap­pointed Mr. Ey­chaner a Kennedy Cen­ter trustee in Septem­ber.

Azita Raji, mean­while, a re­tired in­vest­ment banker from Belvedere, Calif., raised more than half a mil­lion dol­lars for Mr. Obama from as­so­ciates. Mrs. Raji and fam­ily mem­bers per­son­ally gave $70,000 in the last two elec­tion cy­cles.

Robert Wolf of UBS Amer­i­cas, who in 2008 bun­dled $100,000 for Mr. Kerry, raised be­tween $200,000 and $500,000 mit­tee.

Mr. Obama also col­lected nearly $170,000, more than any other can­di­date raised in 23 states, from Puerto Rico, whose res­i­dents can­not vote for pres­i­dent. Mr. Obama trav­eled to the ter­ri­tory last month in the first of­fi­cial pres­i­den­tial visit to the is­land in 50 years.

Three bundlers live on the is­land: Roberto Prats, An­dres Guille­mard and An­dres Lopez.

While the money of a few made up a dis­pro­por­tion­ate sum of Mr. Obama’s fundrais­ing, it did not come at the ex­pense of broad sup­port on a smaller scale. The res­i­dents of 36 states gave more money to Mr. Obama than to any other pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, The Times anal­y­sis of re­ported do­na­tions showed.

The enor­mous frac­tion that can be traced to the per­sonal con­nec­tions and outreach of sev­eral dozen in­di­vid­u­als, and the dis­par­ity be­tween Mr. Messina’s ac­count and an anal­y­sis of records filed with the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion, has to do with the way politi­cians from both par­ties raise funds when they oc­cupy the White House.

The Obama Vic­tory Fund, the main re-elec­tion ve­hi­cle, is struc­tured as a joint com­mit­tee that brings in money un­der the um­brella of both the of­fi­cial pres­i­den­tial re-elec­tion cam­paign and the DNC. Both share the same goal. Al­though fed­eral law caps do­na­tions to elec­tion cam­paigns at ef­fec­tively $5,000 per cy­cle, na­tional par­ties can ac­cept $30,800 per calendar year.

A joint cam­paign can col­lect for both. Large cam­paign do­na­tions are of­ten made in the names of both a hus­band and a wife, mak­ing sin­gle-day con­tri­bu­tions of $71,600 the most ef­fec­tive way for a wealthy fam­ily to help elect a pres­i­dent.

The re­sult is a cam­paign that re­tains the in­ti­mate, grass-roots feel at­tached to a name-brand can­di­date while cap­tur­ing the ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture of the party, and that pres­i­den­tial sur­ro­gates can pick and choose sta­tis­tics from ei­ther the OVF or the of­fi­cial cam­paign as it suits them.

The only Repub­li­can with the cam­paign bankroll that ap­proaches that of Mr. Obama, for­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney, also re­lied on a small num­ber of ex­tremely wealthy in­di­vid­u­als, with­out the broad net of small donors to round it out that Mr. Obama en­joys.

More than two-thirds of Mr. Rom­ney’s $18 mil­lion haul came from peo­ple giv­ing $2,500, the max­i­mum that can be used for the pri­mary elec­tion. Only $1 mil­lion came from con­tri­bu­tions of less than $200.

Mr. Rom­ney re­lied dis­pro­por­tion­ately on sparsely pop­u­lated Utah, where he has Mor­mon roots ($1.3 mil­lion raised), and Florida ($1.5 mil­lion), where he cam­paigned heav­ily last month, for mon­e­tary sup­port. He led 11 states in all, largely South­ern and sparsely pop­u­lated Repub­li­can strongholds in­clud­ing Ten­nessee, Ne­vada, Mis­souri and Louisiana. Mr. Rom­ney’s own state of Mas­sachusetts fa­vored Mr. Obama at $1.5 mil­lion.

Half a mil­lion dol­lars of Mr. Rom­ney’s haul was col­lected by five reg­is­tered lob­by­ists, dis­clo­sures show, in­clud­ing sev­eral who bun­dled money for Ge­orge W. Bush.

Yet the real money be­hind a threat to Mr. Obama this elec­tion sea­son, how­ever, could come not from a Repub­li­can op­po­nent, but from shad­owy groups that can ac­cept un­lim­ited con­tri­bu­tions un­der newly re­laxed rules.

The Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion re­ceived no­tice of for­ma­tion from a new group of this type, which of­ten are backed by cor­po­ra­tions or a few wealthy mag­nates, ear­lier this month.

It is called Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens of Mod­est Means.

Ex­plore the 244 Obama bundlers and their po­lit­i­cal his­to­ries in an in­ter­ac­tive fea­ture on­line at www.wash­ing­ton­

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