Matching bundlers to fundraisers


Here at the Reporting Group, we’ve always wanted to tie the fundraising invitations in our Party Time database to actual donations reported to the Federal Election Commission by a politician or a political action committee–to be able to show a donor gave money to a politician at a certain event.

It’s nearly impossible, and there’s a number of reasons we can’t–not least of which is that dates in FEC records don’t necessarily correspond to the day a contribution was given. (See here for an explanation.) Even when there’s a disclosure intended to shed light on fundraising done by registerd lobbyists and PACs for congressional campaigns (called a 3L), linking these disclosures to a particular fundraising invitation is still a guessing game.

So when the Washington Post used those disclosures to report on the top bundlers–individuals that collect campaign contributions in amounts of $16,000 or more on behalf of a campaign–we wanted to see if they turned up as hosts of fundraisers in our Party Time database (some do).

But while we matched names of bundlers to names of hosts on fundraiser invitations, we didn’t follow through to see if the campaign committees reported to the FEC whether that host bundled funds for their campaigns.

So today we thought we’d see if we could match up 3Ls filed by campaigns with those invitations. Bear in mind that a 3L is a quarterly report–covering three months–and that no dates are listed for when bundlers turned in their bundles.

Of the campaigns that sent out some 50 fundraising invitations that listed a top bundler as a host, only 5 had filed a 3L report. Of those five, only two listed the same bundling lobbyists that showed up in our database of fundraiser invitations. They are:

· Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the lobbying firm which hosted a fundraising breakfast for Rep. Henry Waxman on June 23, 2009. At this breakfast sponsors donated $2,000, while individual guests donated $1,000. The 3L report for the Congressman Waxman Campaign Committee for the period of April 1, 2009 – June 30, 2009 shows that Akin Gump bundled $18,150 in that period for the Committee.

· Anthony Podesta, who held a fundraiser on June 16, 2009 with Seattle chefs for Washington state Sen. Patty Murray. The 3L report for the People for Patty Murray for the period of March 19, 2009 – June 30, 2009 shows that Anthony Podesta bundled $20,500 for Murray in that period.

It’s far from a direct connection–the bundles could have been brought in at a different fundraiser, or just turned into the campaign via the mail–but it’s possible that we’ve found a connection. We made calls to both Akin Gump and Podesta; we’ll update if we hear back.