- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 17, 2011

The campaign fundraising efforts of President Obama raised $86 million in the past three months from 500,000 people — but at least $35 million of it can be traced to just 244 well-connected supporters who collected contributions from wealthy friends.

Just 634 donations from people giving $30,000 or more to the Obama Victory Fund comprise $23 million, while the 1,335 donations the fund received from those giving $250 add up to about $336,000, a Washington Times analysis shows.

The campaign has branded itself as a new type of political operation and touted its reliance on a grass-roots network of everyday people writing reasonably sized checks.

“Ninety-eight percent of all donations that came in were $250 or less, and our average donation was about $69,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a video to supporters.

The dramatic reach is, in part, a testament to the power of personal relationships, among the moneyed elite as with the population at large: The mathematics of the ranges collected by the bundlers and the number of large donations given suggest that nearly every maximum donation came after personal contact with one of the 244 emissaries who received credit for shepherding it.

But the list, which was voluntarily disclosed by Mr. Obama and includes 27 people who brought in more than half a million dollars each — at least $13.5 million among them — is made up of many of the same people who have had outsized influence on American politics for years.

While the figures released by Mr. Obama include only names and locations, a Times analysis found 25 that likely bundled contributions for John Kerry in 2004. At least 90 worked as bundlers for Mr. Obama when he was a freshman senator mounting a bid for the presidency in 2008, but others were betting on his opponents: Ten were raising money for Hillary Rodham Clinton and seven bundled for John Edwards.

Federal donor histories of the half of the 244 that could be traced by The Times show that that segment alone, with their immediate families, has personally donated $21 million to U.S. elections in more than 7,800 checks between 2007 and 2010.

Fred Eychaner of media company Newsweb Corp., for example, made 73 federal-level political donations totaling about $700,000 during the 2008 and 2010 elections before joining the ranks of Mr. Obama’s lowest tier of bundlers, those raising between $50,000 and $100,000. Mr. Obama appointed Mr. Eychaner a Kennedy Center trustee in September.

Azita Raji, meanwhile, a retired investment banker from Belvedere, Calif., raised more than half a million dollars for Mr. Obama from associates. Mrs. Raji and family members personally gave $70,000 in the last two election cycles.

Robert Wolf of UBS Americas, who in 2004 bundled about $100,000 for Mr. Kerry, raised between $200,000 and $500,000 for Mr. Obama this cycle. He and family members have given 115 donations totaling some $185,000 in the past two cycles.

The money has made up significant chunks of the wider Democratic machine, with $6.3 million of the personal donations by bundlers identified by The Times going to the Democratic National Committee, $2.4 million to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and $1.9 million to its House counterpart.

Explore the 244 Obama bundlers, and see Times research on their likely backgrounds and previous bundling activity, on this interactive map. Red dots indicate the largest bundlers. Click on each dot for information. Story continues below.

Spread their wealth

The business leaders often spread their wealth freely, as if hedging their bets to maintain favor with whoever may be in power. In that figure are 118 donations to Republicans totaling $210,000, including $100,000 to the Republican National Committee.

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