Battle For The West: Bundles of Cash

10/26/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bundling Quid Pro Quo
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Campaign finance laws may limit the amount an individual can give to a candidate, but there's no end to the number of friends and associates you can rally behind your favorite pol and take credit when you deliver the loot.Bundlers -- the usually rich and powerful people with equally rich and powerful friends -- funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates and all they ask for in return is a thank you -- and maybe an ambassadorship. Jason Kosena dissects the process in the Colorado Independent, listing who's bundling in 2008 and revealing some stats on the rewards reaped by George W. Bush's bundlers compiled by Texans for Public Justice, a group that looks at money in politics.

Nearly 69 percent of the 548 Bush Pioneers and Rangers -- many of whom were lobbyists and corporate CEOs -- received political pay-outs from the administration including:

• 146 received political appointments within the administration
• 125 were affiliated with 102 companies that received federal contracts
• 24 received American ambassadorships to foreign countries
• 47 were appointed to Bush's presidential transition team
• 26 were invited to "sleepovers" at the White House or Camp David

With sometimes fuzzy disclosure requirements, it can be difficult to get a precise read on bundlers' influence, but the Center for Responsive Politics has compiled the data available. "As of August 18, 534 elites have directed at least $75,750,000 to McCain, and 509 have gathered at least $63,300,000 forObama," they report. Kosena identified Colorado's bundlers:

Obama lists 11 Coloradans as major bundlers, including Federico Peña, Denver's former mayor and a cabinet member under President Clinton. Others include Wanda James, the former campaign manager for Jared Polis in the 2nd Congressional District, and Don Gips, a Clinton administration official who served as Al Gore's chief domestic policy adviser.

Despite a larger base of bundling activity nationwide, McCain has fewer bundlers in Colorado. His list of eight includes some of the world's richest and most powerful CEOs including former Microsoft exec Gregory C. Maffei, now the CEO of Liberty Media; Richard "Dick" Notebaert, former CEO of Qwest Communications; Charlie Ergen, EchoStar CEO and now with DISH Network; and former Bush bundler Trujillo.

Other bundlers in the Battle for the West, according to the Center for Responsive Politics data:

In Nevada, John McCain claims 8 bundlers, including casino moguls Sheldon Adelson (Las Vegas Sands Corp.) and Steve Wynn (Wynn Resorts), the 15th and 118th richest Americans with net worths of $15 billion and $3.4 billion, respectively, according to the latest Forbes Magazine rankings. McCain lists no bundlers in New Mexico.

Obama lists one bundler in both New Mexico and Nevada. Paul Bardacke is a Sante Fe-based lawyer; Elaine Wynn, wife of Steve Wynn, switched parties to caucus for Obama at the Wynn Las Vegas in January.

"Although it's impossible to predict what benefits will come to this year's bundlers nationwide and in Colorado, it's not a stretch to expect some form of gratitude from whomever ultimately wins the White House," Kosena concludes.

Read the rest of the Battle For The West Daily Digest here.