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Kerry Campaign Bankrolled by 564 Big-Money Bundlers

July 16, 2004

Kerry Campaign Bankrolled by 564 Big-Money Bundlers

Lawyers, Lobbyists, Wall Street Financiers and Media Moguls Lead Kerry’s $180 Million Fundraising Drive, Reports WhiteHouseForSale.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Borrowing a page from the Bush campaign’s playbook, Sen. John Kerry’s phenomenal fundraising drive increasingly has relied on bundling by deep-pocketed Democrats – 564 of whom each have collected at least $50,000 for Kerry’s campaign.

Taking in an average of more than $1 million a day since securing the Democratic nomination on Super Tuesday, Kerry has raised more than $180 million so far. Though much of this total has been raised in small donations, mostly brought in over the Internet, Kerry also has turned to big-money bundlers. Kerry’s 266 “vice chairs” (who have raised at least $100,000) and 298 “co-chairs” (who have collected at least $50,000) have accounted for at least $41.5 million, or 23 percent – and likely much more – of Kerry’s total fundraising, according to an analysis by Public Citizen posted today at WhiteHouseForSale.org.

“It was once nearly unthinkable that one presidential candidate – let alone the nominees of both major parties – could raise $200 million or more,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “Allowing wealthy executives and other special interests to essentially circumvent campaign finance regulations by collecting outrageous amounts of campaign cash is a threat to our democracy. President Bush is the master at this game, but Senator Kerry has shown he can play the game, too. Now they both need to compete to be the first to declare they will fix this mess by overhauling the presidential public financing system.”

WhiteHouseForSale.org, a Web site created by Public Citizen to track contributors to the 2004 presidential campaigns, features a searchable database of Kerry’s major fundraisers, which lists their home states, employers, occupations and industries. The Web site offers charts showing the number of Kerry fundraisers per state and detailing how much the senator has raised so far from key industries. The site also includes complete coverage of the Bush campaign’s rainmakers. Bush’s 525 bundlers, categorized either as “Rangers” ($200,000 and up) or “Pioneers” (at least $100,000), have raised at least $73.6 million, 34 percent of his $216 million total.

The list of Kerry’s top fundraisers – which has added more than 230 names since it was last updated in early May – now includes 158 bundlers from California, 105 from New York, 57 from the senator’s home state of Massachusetts and 49 from Washington, D.C. These three states and the nation’s capital accounted for two-thirds of all of Kerry’s bundlers.

The top industries represented on the Kerry bundlers list were lawyers (104 bundlers collecting at least $7.3 million), the finance and investment industry (83 bundlers, $6.7 million), trial lawyers (48 bundlers, $3.7 million), miscellaneous business (50 bundlers, $3.4 million), media/entertainment (47 bundlers, $3.2 million) and lobbyists (34 bundlers, $2.7 million). Based on the limited information provided by the Kerry campaign, Public Citizen was unable to identify the employer and occupation of 18 Kerry bundlers.

Elected officials also have been among Kerry’s most active fundraisers. The newest crop of $100,000 bundlers includes Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. and Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid of Nevada. Among the officials raising at least $50,000 are former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri, New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman and a coterie of Illinois politicians, including Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. A host of former Clinton administration officials also are active Kerry fundraisers, such as former Defense Secretary William Perry, ex-U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Alan Blinken (Kerry’s neighbor in Idaho), and former Treasury officials Gary Gensel and Michael Froman (who now heads Citigroup’s insurance division).

Other notable $100,000 bundlers include Ann Cox Chambers, the multibillionaire matriarch of the Cox media empire; Rob Friedman, the vice chairman of Paramount Pictures; and Washington influence-peddler Lester Hyman of the firm Swidler Berlin, whose clients have ranged from Liberian dictator Charles Taylor to journalist Robert Novak. Kerry’s $50,000 co-chairs include author John Grisham, Infinity Broadcasting Chairman John Sykes, and August Busch – the Budweiser executive who previously was crowned a “Ranger” by the Bush campaign. Busch’s name is the only one that appears on both campaigns’ lists of top fundraisers in 2004.

Kerry is backed by a “Power Ranger” of his own, Haim Saban, the creator of the popular children’s television show. Saban is one of 15 Kerry bundlers who also have been honored as “Trustees” by raising an additional $250,000 for the Democratic National Committee.

The names of 11 previously identified Kerry bundlers disappeared without explanation from the campaign’s official list of Vice Chairs and Co-Chairs. The missing individuals include Rick Yi, a Kerry fundraiser who resigned his official role with the campaign as a liaison to the Korean-American community after being forced to return checks received from Chun Jae-yong, the son of a former president of South Korea who recently was arrested there for tax evasion, and his girlfriend. The Kerry campaign did not return the other contributions collected by Yi.

Kerry has had so much fundraising success that several rainmakers have been encouraging him to opt-out of the public financing system for the general election – which guarantees each candidate $75 million in public funds after accepting their respective party nominations. The campaign has downplayed the idea, though not officially ruled it out.

“That this scheme is even under discussion by Sen. Kerry – a longtime champion of campaign finance reform – speaks volumes about the need for fundamental changes to the presidential public financing system,” said Craig Aaron, a senior researcher at Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “We must put an end to this unrelenting dash for cash by both major political parties.”