At least $143 million, and likely much more, that President Obama has raised this election cycle can be traced to only 638 wealthy “volunteer fundraisers,” data released Friday showed.
The Obama Victory Committee, the primary vehicle for donations from wealthy supporters, such as those tapped by “bundlers,” as they are known, has raised $221 million, meaning most donors to that committee were in some way spurred to give by one of the 638.
With such astonishing reach, it’s not hard to see that the fundraisers who tap wealthy friends, neighbors and associates for the maximum $35,000-plus donations to party and presidential committees are among those to whom a candidate is most deeply indebted.
Some have already benefitted from their fundraising work. Martin Castro, a Chicago lawyer, was appointed by President Obama in 2011 to head the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a paid part-time position, after raising at least $50,000 for his 2008 election. He joined the 2012 list Friday at $100,000 to $200,000.
For the first time, more bundlers had raised more than half a million dollars than any other range. Those top-tier bundlers, numbering 179, have raised at least $90 million. The second tier, who raised between $200,000 and $500,000 each, numbers 158, for a total of between $32 million and $79 million.
Since the last time bundlers were disclosed three months ago, more than 106 names have been added to the list.
Thirteen people raised half a million dollars in the last three months alone, including two politicians, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Terence McAuliffe, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee and rumored candidate for governor of Virginia.
In the second tier was the mayor of Newark, Cory Booker, who recently contradicted Mr. Obama’s messaging on Mr. Romney’s time at Bain Capital by standing up for the financial industry.
Indeed, the political figures aside, the majority of the bundlers work in finance, with hefty doses of lawyers and Hollywood.
The television production company of new bundler David Garfinckle, for example, counts the show “The 5th Wheel” among its credits. The company describes the show on its website as “a dating show where strangers become lovers and lovers become bitter suicidal exes all in the same show.” Other shows by the company include “Blind Date”, “It’s Effin’ Science” and “Mobile Home Disaster”.
Other new names are not without controversy.
Alan Kessler, who raised up to $200,000 for Mr. Obama in the last three months, served for years on the Board of Governors overseeing the U.S. Postal Service. But he resigned last summer weeks after an investigation found he pressured postal officials in a real estate deal involving a friend.
Mr. Kessler told investigators he learned about the deal after being contacted by Douglas Band, a prominent Democrat he knew through his ties to President Clinton. Mr. Kessler served on Mr. Clinton’s transition team and was national finance chair to then-Sen. Hillary Clinton. According to the Inspector General, “Governor Kessler exerted pressure on Postal Service officials” in the real estate deal to consider settlement proposals instead of purchasing the property. Mr. Kessler denied any wrongdoing, and an attorney told the Postal Service in a letter that he acted “with the best interest of USPS in mind.”
The Center for Public Integrity found that in 2008, 80 percent of people who raised half a million dollars or more got administration posts, most often ambassadorships.
Despite all major candidates since 2000 voluntarily releasing lists of their top fundraisers – including Mr. Romney in 2008 – he has refused calls to do so this election year.
• Jim McElhatton and Chuck Neubauer contributed reporting.