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‘Mega-donors’ Pump Millions Into McCain’s Presidential Campaign, Public Citizen Analysis Shows

July 18, 2008 

‘Mega-donors’ Pump Millions Into McCain’s Presidential Campaign, Public Citizen Analysis Shows

Candidates Taking Advantage of Loophole in Campaign Finance Laws

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen today posted the names of individuals contributing $25,000 or more to Sen. John McCain’s joint fundraising committees on its WhiteHouseForSale.org Web site, which tracks the candidates’ reliance on big contributors and big donors. Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings released Tuesday night show that McCain has raised more than $62 million through these joint committees, which are able to accept donations well in excess of normal campaign contribution limits.

The FEC filings show that more than 1,000 mega-donors gave McCain’s joint committees at least $25,000, accounting for more than $36 million, or more than half the amount raised. The top 100 mega-donors each gave an average of nearly $69,000, contributing nearly $6.9 million combined. Individuals are limited to giving $2,300 to McCain’s official campaign committee.

At least two joint fundraising committees have been established to aid Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. The reports of those committees, which are using a different schedule, are due next week. WhiteHouseforSale.org will post Obama’s mega-donor data when it becomes available.

Contributions to joint committees are funneled to national and state party committees. Small shares of the contributions are sent to the candidates’ official committees.

“McCain and Obama’s use of joint fundraising committees to accept contributions many times greater than the normal rules allow is a direct contradiction of their criticism of money’s corrupting influence,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “McCain’s effort flatly undermines the spirit of his landmark McCain-Feingold legislation.”

Public Citizen is calling on McCain and Obama to:

  • Include money raised for their joint committees in tallies of their bundlers’ fundraising efforts. McCain has indicated that he is now doing so. Obama has not responded to this  request, which Public Citizen and seven other campaign finance groups made in a letter late last month. The candidates also should indicate whether they are including the mega-donors’ own contributions as part of bundling totals.
  • Ensure that their joint committees report on a monthly basis, rather than quarterly. If the FEC doesn’t provide a means for McCain to do so in his official filings, he should disclose this information voluntarily on his Web site.

While McCain has agreed to accept an $84.1 million public funding grant and identical spending limit for the general election, his joint fundraising committees can raise an unlimited amount on his behalf. Obama has declined to participate in public financing for the general election, though he says he favors reforming the presidential finance system for future elections.

“The staggering amount of cash raised through these joint fundraising committees underscores the need to close this loophole and pass legislation to improve the public funding system for presidential campaigns,” said David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Presidential candidates should not use joint fundraising committees to exceed the limits on contributions to their campaigns, but it’s particularly egregious that candidates participating in the public financing system can do so.”

For a breakdown of McCain’s and Obama’s fundraising efforts, go to WhiteHouseForSale.org.