Elite Fundraisers Deliver “Bundles” of Donations to Democratic Candidates Who Abandoned the Public Financing System

Jan. 16, 2004

Elite Fundraisers Deliver “Bundles” of Donations to Democratic Candidates Who Abandoned the Public Financing System

 

WhiteHouseForSale.org Launches Searchable Database with Information About 32 Dean Bundlers and 119 Kerry Backers; Bush Names 42 New Rangers and Pioneers

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – While not approaching the scope of President Bush’s unparalleled fundraising operations, the presidential campaigns of Howard Dean and John Kerry haven’t been shy about reaching out to their own elite networks of big money bundlers to help finance their campaigns, according to an analysis by Public Citizen.

WhiteHouseForSale.org, a Web site created by Public Citizen to track contributors to Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, has begun monitoring the fundraising activities of Dean and Kerry because they are the only other candidates who have followed Bush in opting out of the presidential public financing system. In addition to keeping a running tally of their respective fundraising totals, Public Citizen today unveiled its searchable database of Dean and Kerry bundlers, their home states, employers and occupations. Both it and the Bush database are available at WhiteHouseforSale.org.

Official totals won’t be filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) until the end of January, but the Dean campaign has reported raising $41 million in 2003. The Kerry campaign brought in nearly $29 million last year, including $6.4 million the senator loaned to his campaign after taking out a mortgage on his home. A candidate who accepts public financing can raise and spend no more than $45 million before next summer’s Democratic Convention in Boston.

Although Dean has raised $12 million more than Kerry, the Massachusetts senator has relied on four times the number of bundlers, those financial backers who collect contributions up to the limit of $2,000 from others. So far, the Dean campaign has released the names of 14 individuals who have raised at least $100,000; another 18 individuals have bundled at least $50,000 for the Vermont governor. The Kerry campaign has identified 32 fundraisers who have brought in at least $100,000; another 87 rainmakers have collected at least $50,000.

“We wish that all the presidential candidates would stay within the public financing system, but President Bush’s outrageous money machine places an extreme handicap on candidates who want to wage a fair fight,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “The McCain-Feingold law removed hundreds of millions in soft money from the political system, but wealthy special interests are still able to purchase influence with politicians by serving as money brokers who collect $2,000 checks from their own business and personal networks and forward them to the candidates.”

Kerry’s $50,000 Hollywood supporters include actor Dennis Hopper, director William Friedkin, Viacom Entertainment Chairman Jonathan Dolgen, Paramount Studios chief Sherry Lansing, CBS Entertainment head Nancy Tellem and three top executives at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Kerry’s Massachusetts fundraisers include longtime backers Alan Solomont, the former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC); Jonathan Lavine, managing director of Bain Capital; and the senator’s brother Cameron Kerry, an attorney at Mintz Levin – the firm that ranks as Kerry’s all-time biggest donor.

Kerry also has roped in three former ambassadors, at least 15 trial lawyers and at least a dozen influence-peddlers from such high-powered lobbying firms as Skadden Arps (Kerry’s biggest supporter in 2003), Piper Rudnick and Quinn Gillespie, as well as a pair of lobbyists from the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.

Kerry garnered support from major Clinton supporters, including former Small Business Administration head Fred Hochberg and several participants in the notorious “White House coffees,” including Vance Opperman, former president of West Publishing and Hassan Nemazee, whose nomination to be U.S. ambassador to Argentina was withdrawn in 1999 after Forbes deemed him “a slick-talking investor with a spotty record.”

Dean poached three bundlers from Kerry’s backyard, including former DNC chief Steve Grossman. Dean names just two rainmakers from his home state, Vermont philanthropists and film producers Bill and Jane Stetson. Other Dean devotees include U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, the only member of Congress on either list (press reports estimate she has raised at least $250,000 for Dean); ex-Rhode Island Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse; director Rob Reiner (who racked up $100,000 for Dean); former Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer; and Diane Straus Tucker, a New York newspaper publisher who is Monica Lewinsky’s stepsister.

Wall Street has filled Bush’s campaign coffers, but financiers and investors have been generous to the Democrats as well. Unlike Bush, however, neither Kerry nor Dean has attracted any bundlers from the agriculture, electric utility, oil and gas, or mining industries.

Even though Bush faces no primary opponent, his campaign already has raked in an unprecedented $137.9 million at a series of 98 exclusive, big-ticket fundraising events across the country headlined by the president, vice president and first lady.

The Bush campaign yesterday disclosed the names of 42 new bundlers. The campaign now has 151 “Rangers,” those fundraisers who bundle at least $200,000 in contributions, and 241 “Pioneers,” who have each brought in at least $100,000. In addition, the campaign has identified a dozen new “Mavericks” – the title given to fundraisers under 40 who raise at least $50,000.

Notables among the newly named rainmakers – all Pioneers – include Arizona Sen. John Kyl, Jack Gerard, president of the National Mining Association, and Hank McKinnell, chairman and CEO of Pfizer. Ten individuals previously named as Pioneers have achieved Ranger status, including sugar baron Pepe Fanjul and ex-EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

“We need a major overhaul of the public financing system,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “That’s the only way to eliminate the undue influence of special interests, create a level playing field for qualified candidates, and restore integrity to the Oval Office.”

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