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Thursday, August 4, 2011

U.S. policy for sale

Bundlers and Lobbyists buy what you cannot afford
Compiled and edited with end comment by Carolyn Bennett

“During the second quarter of 2011, the Obama Victory Fund raked in about $39 million,” says the Center for Responsive Reports referencing a review of campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. The U.S. president and the Democratic National Committee combined raised “$86 million during the second quarter.”

“Money bags”

Michael Beckel reported in mid July that President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign had released “the names of 244 bundlers.” The campaign labeled the bundlers “‘volunteer fund-raisers,’ who collected at least $50,000 each on behalf of the president’s re-election.”

·       Bundlers are people with friends in high places who, after bumping against personal contribution limits, turn to those friends, associates, and, well, anyone who is willing to give, and deliver the checks to the candidate in one big ‘bundle.’

·       These donors direct to candidates more money than any other contributors, yet the “disclosure can be spotty.”  In 2008, “536 ‘elites’ directed at least $75,750,000 to [Senator John] McCain and 560 gathered at least $76,500,000 for [Senator Barack] Obama.”

Lobbyist and Bundlers

According to an iWatch News analysis, “30 lobbyists or lobbying entities have bundled a little over $2 million to 14 political entities including party committees and political candidates of all kinds” since the beginning of this year.

Lobbyists bundling large amounts of cash raises a disturbing “specter of this quid pro quo,” Common Cause vice president of communications Mary Boyle told the monitoring and investigative group, iWatch.

She describes “bundlers as ‘power brokers’ of the regulated financial system who do a valuable service for candidates” — a service that “‘buys [bundlers] access, influence and, certainly, prestige within the campaign.’”

Bundlers “are typically influential people who collect a lot of money for candidates,” Boyle said, “and the public has a right to know the names of the people who are collecting these large chunks of money.”

Top Five

Positioning themselves “to make an early impact in what is shaping up to be the most expensive political cycle in American history,” Tony and Heather Podesta, top-tier Democratic donors and lobbyists, have each bundled over $320,000 in the first six months of this year.

Anthony T. Podesta (bundled just under $350,000)

To the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the campaign of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Podesta is wired into the Democratic establishment — his brother John served as Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff and more recently acted as President Obama’s transition team co-chair while running the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

The Anthony Podesta Group is one of the most powerful lobbying entities in the District of Columbia, with clients ranging from the American Meat Institute to Duke Energy to Sallie Mae.

Since the start of the year, Podesta’s firm has brought in at least $13.7 million in contracts.

Heather Podesta (second biggest — bundled over $322,000, to DCCC and DSCC.

Heather Podesta is owner of a lobbying firm that works for a broad range of clients including the American Beverage Association, Marathon Oil and Prudential Financial.

With Partners, she has brought in since January at least $3.3 million in contracts.

Managing director Patrick J. Durkin of the financial firm Barclays Capital (bundled $167,800 exclusively for the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney and joined several other lobbyists who, together  kicked in more than half a million dollars).

Since the start of 2011, Barclays “has spent over $2.2 million on lobbying.”

Durkin has lobbied for Barclays on financial issues, including the Dodd-Frank reform bill, the “American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act” and changes to the tax code.

Durkin also bundled big money for former President George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and for Senator John McCain in 2008.

Fiorentino Group’s president, T. Martin Fiorentino Jr (raised $102,900 for Romney’s campaign and $41,200 for Mike Haridopolos’s Republican Senate campaign later ended).

Fiorentino has raised money for presidential candidates since 1988.

He has lobbied on behalf of clients Florida State College and Physician Sales and Service and the Fiorentino Group has raised $70,000 in federal lobbying contracts in 2011.
Fiorentino’s company “was reprimanded in April by the federal government for ‘unsound practices’ in connection with the company’s work on behalf of a foreclosure company.

Senior vice president of government and public affairs with the American Dental Association Michael Graham (bundled $130,000 for the National Republican Senatorial Committee so far this year).

The American Dental Association has spent at least $1.2 million on federal lobbying this year, and on behalf of ADA, Graham lobbied Congress on issues like providing flexible spending accounts to members of the military, various bills aimed at repealing or gutting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and a variety of medical and dental issues.  

Graham is a commander in the Navy Reserve with over 30 years of government affairs experience.

Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld’s political arm (bundled more than $163,000 to the DCCC, DSCC and the NRSC — $122,500 to the NRSC, the remainder split almost evenly among the two Democratic groups).

Among Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld’s clients in 2011 are ATandT, Bain Capital, Johnson and Johnson, and Shell Oil.

Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld’s has brought in more than $17.7 million in federal contracts through the first half of 2011.

OBAMA’s bundlers

In the current 2011-2012 campaign period, a Center for Responsive Politics reports bundlers “together steered at least $34.95 million into coffers of the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee”— 40 percent of the total $86 million that Obama campaign manager Jim Messina reported as “coming into Obama’s re-election campaign and the joint fund-raising committee set up to benefit both Obama and the DNC.”

Obscure bundlers and $ totals

Because the Obama campaign documentation [of 244 bundlers] was broad in amounts and  limited in donor detail, “The true amount collected for Obama’s re-election could be even greater than $35 million. If the maximum amounts raised by these 200-plus elite moneymen and women are used, the total could be as high as $60 million — 70 percent of the total announced; and since for the 27 individuals who bundled more than a half-million dollars there was no maximum amount given, the amount could be even higher.”

OBAMA “prolifics”  :Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner, Pfizer executive Sally Susman, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, and financier Orin Kramer

Other top Obama bundlers Hollywood super agent Ari Emanuel (brother of former Obama chief of staff, now Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel (bundled between $50,000 and $100,000)

During the 2008 cycle, Ari Emanuel bundled for the Obama campaign between $200,000 and $500,000

 Former chief executive officer at Goldman Sachs and former Democratic senator and governor of New Jersey Jon Corzine (bundled more than $500,000)

 Democratic National Committee Treasurer and DNC’s highest-ranking openly gay official Andrew Tobias (bundled more than $500,000)

ROMNEY lobbyist/bundlers

Because of information required under the 2007 Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, the Mitt Romney (Republican) presidential campaign provided details about the fundraising of six lobbyists who also bundled large sums for the campaign.

Taken together the reported six Romney lobbyists/bundlers funneled $517,450 into Romney’s campaign and, during the second quarter overall, his presidential campaign reported raising $18.38 million.

ROMNEY’S “Select Six” lobbyist-bundlers

1.     Barclays’ Patrick J. Durkin (bundled $167,800).

Durkin was also a top fundraiser for President George W. Bush.
Durkin in 2000 was also among the famed ‘Pioneers’ who bundled at least $100,000 for Bush
During the 2004 election, Durkin bundled at least $200,000, earning Bush’s ‘Ranger’ status
[In 2008, Durkin gave the then-legal maximum of $2,300 to the eventual Republican Party nominee John McCain]

2.     Fiorentino Group’s T. Martin Fiorentino (bundled $102,900).

Fiorentino was also a Bush Pioneer in 2000 and Ranger in 2004.
In 2008, he donated $2,300 to McCain

3.     Ogilvy Government Relations’ Wayne Berman (bundled $101,600).

Berman was also Bush Pioneer in 2000 and Ranger in 2004.
In the 2008 election cycle, he was one of McCain’s national finance team co-chairs

4.     Ogilvy Government Relations’ Drew Maloney (bundled $56,750)

In the 2008 election cycle, Maloney and his wife donated the legal maximum of $2,300 to Romney (and about the same to McCain)

5.     Dutko Worldwide’s David Beightol (bundled $54,200)

In the 2008 election cycle, Beightol donated $2,300 to Romney, $1,000 to McCain; and his wife gave $2,275 to the Romney campaign

6.     Rath Group’s Judi Rhines (bundled $34,200)

In the 2008 election cycle, Rhines gave $2,300 to the Romney campaign

It is fair to say that, in the United States of America — home of leaders prone to lecturing underdeveloped countries on “democracy” — only the ‘few’ get policy (and the limited government) of their choosing.

This is because, in this flawed democracy, effective choice does not happen at the ballot box but in a marketplace (and smoke-filled rooms) where heavy-hitting bundlers/lobbyists and government officials meet to buy and sell policy, to take bribes and peddle influence. This is the true treachery among us.

It does not have to be this way. We can do better.

Sources and notes

“Elite Fund-Raisers Help Presidential Candidates Rake in Millions” (Michael Beckel), July 15, 2011, http://www.opensecrets.org/MT/mt-search.cgi?search=money+bags&IncludeBlogs=8

Center for Responsive Politics, August 4, 2011, http://www.opensecrets.org/news/ 
“‘Absent a statute like the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, there is no way of knowing if the information candidates are releasing is complete or if  they are omitting bundlers who might attract negative attention … It’s only with a [new] statute requiring disclosure of all bundlers that you will get full disclosure.’” Paul Ryan, an attorney at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, spoke with OpenSecrets Blog. Published on iWatch News (http://www.iwatchnews.org)
“Top 5 lobbyist bundlers — power couple Tony and Heather Podesta top the list”  (Aaron Mehta),
July 28, 2011,

The FEC lobbyist/bundlers database contains the only bundler names any of the campaigns are legally required to disclose.

Signed into law in 2007 as part of the reform package pushed by Congressional Democrats, the FEC’s database is relatively new. Hobbled by the lack of a quorum for most of 2008, the FEC did not put the new disclosure rules into effect until February 2009. The regulations created a system in which a political committee must identify and report any bundlers registered lobbyists, who raised more than $16,000 per half-year period. FEC’s website hosts the database of these bundlers. Source URL: http://www.iwatchnews.org/2011/07/28/5402/top-5-lobbyist-bundlers-power-couple-tony-and-heather-podesta-top-list

“Though the Obama team has a policy of not accepting funds from active lobbyists and was therefore not listed in FEC’s database, several Obama bundlers identified by the campaign have previously lobbied. They gave “more than $1.3 million for the president as part of the large financial haul the Obama bundling team has already delivered.”


“Only two presidential contenders appeared in the database — Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.” 

“Obama rewards big bundlers with jobs, commissions, stimulus money, government contracts, and more,”  Published on iWatch News (http://www.iwatchnews.org)

“Obama rewards big bundlers with jobs, commissions, stimulus money, government contracts, and more”  (By Fred Schulte, John Aloysius Farrell and Jeremy Borden), June 15, 2011:Telecom executive Donald H. Gips raised a big bundle of cash to help finance his friend Barack Obama’s run for the presidency. Schulte, Farrell and Borden are reporters for iWatch News.org, a website of the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based nonprofit focused on investigative journalism.
Source URL: http://www.iwatchnews.org/2011/06/15/4880/obama-rewards-big-bundlers-jobs-commissions-stimulus-money-government-contracts-and

The Center for Public Integrity

Founded in 1989 by Charles Lewis, the Center for Public Integrity is one of oldest and largest U.S. nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations.  Its mission is “to reveal abuses of power, corruption and dereliction of duty by powerful public and private institutions in order to cause them to operate with honesty, integrity, accountability and to put the public interest first.

“iWatch News is the Center’s online publication dedicated to investigative and accountability reporting. It provides original and exclusive daily stories as well as in-depth investigations and commentary.” http://www.iwatchnews.org/about

Campaign finance in the United States

Campaign finance in the United States is the financing of electoral campaigns at the federal, state, and local levels. The public financing and eligibility system “is designed so that Democratic or Republican Party candidates for President of the United States routinely qualify for funds while excluding most other party candidates.” State and local law govern races for non-federal offices. More than half U.S. states allow some level of corporate and union contributions. Some states have limits on contributions from individuals that are lower than the national limits; six states (Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Virginia) have no limits.

Campaign finance is a controversial issue in the United States, pitting concerns about free speech against concerns about corruption and inequality on the part of those who favor existing or further restrictions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campaign_finance_in_the_United_States


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