Published April 30, 2012
Forget about super PACs.
Bundlers are the original movers and shakers in the world of high-dollar campaign fundraising. And President Obama's reelection machine has enlisted a veritable army of them -- a roster that includes some of the biggest names in media and show business.
Among them are entertainment magnate Tyler Perry, actress Eva Longoria, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and Vogue editor Anna Wintour. It's just not Hollywood backing the president -- Comcast executive David Cohen, as well as lawyers and finance titans from Goldman Sachs, Barclays Capital and other firms help complete the list of hundreds.
The bundlers are tasked with a critical job. They're tapped to solicit their friends, neighbors, family members and acquaintances for campaign contributions -- lots of campaign contributions. The bundlers themselves are limited to personally giving no more than $2,500 per election. But that can't stop them from collecting money from everyone they know.
The latest list put out by the Obama campaign shows they know a lot of people. Nearly 120 individuals bundled more than $500,000 apiece, according to the campaign's round-up for the first quarter of 2012.
Viveca Novak, spokeswoman with the Center for Responsive Politics, said the bundling system has been around for a long time, though it does turn into a bit of a favor factory, with top bundlers often rewarded with comfortable presidential appointments.
"There are some reasonably cushy posts you can reward people with," Novak said. Presidents don't name their bundlers to highly sensitive posts like CIA director, she said, but they often send them abroad on diplomatic assignments.
"There's been a tradition of elected officials keeping their patrons happy," she said.
One of Obama's bundlers attracted attention in recent days after the president nominated him to be the ambassador to The Netherlands. It's hardly the first time a president has moved to reward a prominent bundler with a plum assignment. The Center for Public Integrity estimates almost 200 of Obama's bundlers from the last election -- or their spouses -- ended up with appointments. Former President George W. Bush followed a similar practice.
Other bundlers don't need any big favors from the president, as much of the list is a who's who of Hollywood and media.
The following bundlers have raised more than $500,000 apiece, though the campaign does not break down specifically what they've raised: Wintour; Katzenberg; Perry; mega-movie producer Harvey Weinstein; David Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast Corporation, which is the majority owner of NBC Universal; and Mai Lassiter, wife of Hollywood producer and Will Smith business partner James Lassiter.
The list also includes big names in politics and finance, including a man at the intersection of both -- former New Jersey governor and MF Global boss Jon Corzine. Even some journalists make their way onto the list, like TV reporter Giselle Fernandez, who was listed as raising between $100,000 and $200,000 in the first quarter of 2012. Alternative medicine pioneer Deepak Chopra was listed as raising the same amount.
The Center for Responsive Politics pegs the total amount raised to date by the bundlers at about $106 million. The money goes to the "Obama Victory Fund," which is a partnership between the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign.
Obama, of course, is not the only candidate to benefit from bundlers. But while he and John McCain disclosed their bundlers in the 2008 election, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has not agreed to do the same so far in 2012.
The Center for Responsive Politics nevertheless publishes a list of the bundlers the Romney campaign has been compelled to disclose by the FEC because they are registered lobbyists.
Those 22 lobbyist bundlers have contributed close to $3 million, according to the group.
A number of public interest groups, including the Center for Responsive Politics, called on Romney and other candidates in the 2012 race to disclose their bundlers.
"We have received no response," Novak said. "We do believe that transparency is key."