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Campaign Finance Reform Groups Urge Presidential Candidates to Reveal More Donor Information

June 25, 2008

Campaign Finance Reform Groups Urge Presidential Candidates to Reveal More Donor Information

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Eight government watchdog organizations today urged Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain to reveal more details about fundraisers for their presidential campaigns who “bundle” contributions in amounts greatly exceeding what they’re permitted to contribute on their own, and to furnish additional data about their small donors.

The organizations sent their letters as Obama tries to recruit Hillary Clinton’s top fundraisers in Washington on Thursday and McCain rushes to raise private money before switching later this summer to public financing.

Bundlers, who are often corporate executives, lobbyists, hedge fund managers or independently wealthy people, are able to funnel far more money to campaigns than they could personally give under campaign finance laws. Despite the tremendous influence these individuals can have in a campaign –and in an administration after the election – no disclosure of bundling is currently required. While both campaigns have voluntarily listed how much their bundlers have generally raised, it would be far more meaningful if the candidates identified precise, cumulative amounts for each of their bundlers, the groups wrote in letters to Obama and McCain.

The letters were signed by Campaign Finance Institute, Center for Responsive Politics, Common Cause, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters of the United States, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation and U.S. PIRG.

Last week, Obama announced that he would forego the $84 million the federal government offers presidential candidates in the general election and rely on private contributions instead. McCain has also indicated he will continue to rely on private contributions until after his party’s nominating convention.

“Obama’s decision to opt out of public financing increases the need for him to be more forthcoming about how he’s raising his money,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “If Obama and McCain truly care about reforming the system, they should set a higher standard for future presidential candidates by disclosing complete information about their donors.”

The groups ask the candidates to divulge on their campaign Web sites the exact amounts that bundlers raise for their official campaign committees and joint fundraising committees that benefit the campaign. The letter also asks each candidate to instruct his party’s national committee to keep track of its bundlers and disclose the same information.

The groups also urge the candidates to release bundlers’ locations by city and state, and their occupations and employers – disclosure no more burdensome than what the Federal Election Commission requires for any donor contributing more than $200.

As for individual contributors of $200 or less, the groups urge the candidates to reveal the number of contributors and cumulative amounts received by ZIP code and country (the latter is included because Americans living abroad can donate funds) to provide the public with more comprehensive insight into the demographics of their donors.

“We recognize that our organizations are asking you to share information that presidential candidates have not provided in the past,” the letter says. “But, to borrow a phrase, for those to whom much private money has been contributed, much is required.”

READ the Obama letter.

READ the McCain letter.