POLITICS

Obama Bundlers Raise $55.5 Million For President's Re-Election

10/15/2011 09:36 am ET | Updated Dec 15, 2011

WASHINGTON -- The re-election campaign of President Barack Obama has a wide base of small-dollar donors and a small base of big-dollar bundlers. A total of 352 bundlers helped collect at least $55.5 million for the president's re-election from April through September, according to an analysis of a new bundler list released by the Obama campaign on Friday afternoon.

The Obama bundler team features such well-known names as Vogue editor Anna Wintour, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine and Miramax head Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein is one of 114 brand-new bundlers who have joined the campaign from July through September.

The brand-new bundlers accounted for at least $11.7 million in new contributions. The total raised by bundlers consists of about $35 million raised from April through June and another $20 million raised from July through September.

The $55.5 million raised by the bundlers went to both Obama's campaign committee and the Democratic National Committee, which have combined to raise $70.1 million so far in 2011. Bundlers have collected checks that account for 35 percent of the total raised for Obama's re-election.

Five of the new bundlers raised at least $500,000, the top range reported by the campaign. They include Weinstein; HBO executive James Costos; Microsoft attorney John Frank; Ambassador to Sweden Matthew Barzun, who is also the Obama 2012 national finance chair; and President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities member Christine Forester, a veteran Obama fundraiser.

Bundling is a relatively new form of fundraising that has become essential to election campaigns. The practice was mastered by the 2000 presidential campaign of then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush when he encouraged supporters by giving them special names (Pioneers and Rangers) and additional campaign access depending on how many checks the supporters could deliver to the campaign.

There are no rules for the disclosure of bundlers, but since Bush disclosed his list in 2000, it has become assumed that presidential candidates would make the information public. Yet this year Obama is the only candidate releasing his list of bundlers.

"The Republican candidates who aren't doing it are really doing a disservice to the public," said Bill Allison, editorial director of the pro-transparency Sunlight Foundation. "Given how much influence these donors can have, it really does make a difference. For the candidates still in office, like [Rick] Perry or [Michele] Bachmann, it's even more important that they release their bundlers because these donors can have an impact when they're off the campaign trail."

Indeed, the Obama campaign recently came under fire for the connection between some of its bundlers and Solyndra, a now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer that received government loan guarantees. Republicans in Congress have held investigations into the company's collapse and loan guarantees, and the Republican presidential field has used Solyndra as an example of the administration's failures.

The connection to bundlers Steve Westly, Steven Spinner and George Keiser, however, would have remained unnoticed if not for the Obama campaign's release of bundler lists in 2008. Westly and Spinner are both listed as bundlers for Obama's re-election campaign. Westly reportedly e-mailed administration officials to raise concerns about a visit by President Obama to a Solyndra factory.

"Clearly the way you find these scandals is by knowing who these bundlers are," Allison said. "If you can't identify them, it's hard to hold an administration accountable."

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