Bundle Up


Earlier today, the Campaign Finance Institute (CFI) and Public Citizen released an extensive study that found the majority of the bundlers and other fundraisers raising cash for the various 2008 presidential campaigns, over 2,000 individuals, come from only three segments of the U.S. economy: lawyers and law firms, three finance industries, and real estate. Among those industries, Republicans hold an edge in raising money from the real estate and lobbying industries. Democrats are receiving more funds from lawyers and law firms, as well as the entertainment industries. Democratic and Republican fundraisers appear to be doing a comparable job of raising cash from the securities and investment industry.

The two organizations are quick to point out that it is impossible to really know how much money each industry has given since the campaigns are not disclosing the precise amounts their fundraisers are raising. Each campaign is disclosing partial information, and each has different disclosure procedures. "The sporadic and incomplete reporting by campaigns of their designated fundraisers points to the need for legislation on this matter," the report says.

"Disclosure is important because these prodigious fundraisers are some of the people who will get their phone calls returned by the White House and will get chances at prestigious positions," Lisa Zagaroli with McClatchy Newspapers reported last month. Bundled contributions are among the most insidious sources of campaign money because they give a single donor the opportunity to get credit for raising contributions that are often hundreds of times greater than the legal limits applied to individuals.

As we discussed earlier this month, among the potentially meaningful and important changes to campaign finance law in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act is a provision that requires candidates for federal office to report the bundled contributions they receive from lobbyists.

At Sunlight, we believe bundled contributions from any party-CEOs, non-lobbyist lawyers and law firms-should be publicly disclosed. But, the new law limits such disclosure to registered lobbyists, which at least begins to get to the heart of the problem. The Federal Election Commission has the responsibility of crafting regulations that carry out the intent of the new law, and is expected to have its final regulations completed by March. As this great report from CFI and Public Citizen highlights so thoroughly, we hope the FEC’s regulations support more transparency rather than helping to conceal who’s funding the candidates.