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Who Is Bankrolling the Bush and Kerry Campaigns?

July 23, 2004

Who Is Bankrolling the Bush and Kerry Campaigns?

Candidates Have More Than 1,000 Big-Money Bundlers Between Them; WhiteHouseForSale.org Shows Which Industries Are Collecting the Most Money

WASHINGTON, D.C.– The presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and John Kerry have raised an unprecedented $414 million during the primary season, relying to a significant extent on the efforts of more than 1,000 corporate executives, lawyers, lobbyists and other wealthy special interests who have maximized their political influence by bundling a large number of individual contributions for the candidate of their choice. A new analysis by Public Citizen, posted today at WhiteHouseForSale.org, offers a side-by-side comparison of the minimum amounts bundled by key industries for each candidate.

As of June 30, the president had raised $42 million more than his opponent, so it’s no surprise that he collected more than Kerry from most key industries. But executives from the energy, transportation, construction and agriculture sectors bundled contributions almost exclusively for Bush. However, Kerry has raised significantly more than Bush from lawyers and the media/entertainment industry. Several industries – finance, in particular – have given eye-popping amounts to both candidates.

“An elite group of rainmakers seeks to hijack our democracy,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “The question is whether Bush will step up as Kerry already has to support the McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan proposal to overhaul the presidential public financing system. That’s the only way to rescue our elections from the clutches of the special interests bankrolling both campaigns.”

Bush has collected nearly a third of his $228 million total ($73.6 million)   from 211 “Rangers” and 314 “Pioneers,” the honorary titles given to fundraisers who have collected at least $200,000 or $100,000, respectively, for his re-election bid. Kerry has raised at least 22 percent of his $186 million total ($41.5 million)   from 266 “Vice Chairs” (who have raised at least $100,000) and 298 “Co-Chairs” (who have collected at least $50,000). The amounts bundled, however, are probably much higher; the campaigns only identify bundlers who have crossed certain fundraising thresholds and do not release the exact amounts collected.

Financial executives rank among the top fundraisers for both candidates. Representatives of at least six big Wall Street   firms – the Blackstone Group, Credit Suisse First Boston, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and UBS Financial Services – are on the lists of top fundraisers for both campaigns. Overall, the finance industry bundled the most of any industry for the major party candidates since 2003   – nearly $21 million, two-thirds of which went to Bush. (The president collected at least $14.1 million from the finance industry   versus about $6.8 million for Kerry.)

Likewise, most of the industries or professions bundling the most for both candidates gave significantly more to Bush – from lobbyists ($8.2 million vs. $2.7 million ) to real estate interests ($7 million vs. $2.4 million) to state and federal government officials ($5.4 million vs. $2.3 million). But where Bush really outdistanced Kerry was the money he raised from industries that bundled very little money for the Democrat. For example, Bush has collected at least $4.9 million from the energy and natural resources sector – 25 times more than the $200,000 that Kerry took in from that sector.  

Bush also collected 15 times more than Kerry from the construction industry ($3.9 million vs. $250,000), 10 times more from the transportation sector ($3 million vs. $300,000), and four times more from the insurance industry ($1.8 million vs. $450,000). Bush raised three times as much as Kerry from bundlers representing hospitals, HMOs, nursing homes and drug companies ($4.4 million vs. $1.3 million). And while agribusiness interests collected at least $1.7 million for Bush, no one from the industry turned up on Kerry’s list of top fundraisers.

However, Kerry raised nearly twice as much as Bush from lawyers, excluding trial lawyers ($7.3 million vs. $3.7 million) and four times as much from media/entertainment interests ($3.2 million vs. $800,000), drawing the support of numerous Hollywood executives and television producers. Kerry collected an additional $3.7 million from trial lawyers. No trial lawyers bundled for Bush.

WhiteHouseForSale.org, a Web site created by Public Citizen to track contributors to the 2004 presidential campaigns, features a searchable database of the major fundraisers for Bush and Kerry, listing their home states, employers, occupations and industries. The Web site also offers charts showing the number of fundraisers per state for each candidate. The states with the most big-money Bush backers are Texas, Florida, New York, California and Ohio. Two-thirds of all of Kerry’s bundlers come from California, New York, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

After accepting the Democratic nomination next week, Kerry will opt in to the presidential public financing system and receive $74 million in public funds for the general election. In early September, following the Republican Convention, Bush will do the same. Many of Bush’s backers are already raising money for the Republican Party – which has been the president’s main focus since April. Sixty-two “Super-Rangers” have raised $300,000 for the Republican National Committee in addition to the $200,000 or $100,000 that all but a few of them previously collected for the Bush campaign. For the Democrats, 17 “Trustees” have raised $250,000 in addition to their contributions to the Kerry campaign.

“We’re heading down a path toward plutocracy,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “Unless we fix the way we finance elections in this country, special interests will steamroll average citizens every time.”