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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


President Obama granted plum jobs and appointments to almost 200 people who raised large sums for his presidential campaign, and his top fundraisers have won millions of dollars in federal contracts, according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity.

In one example detailed by the group's iWatch News, Telecom executive Donald H. Gips "bundled" half a million dollars in contributions to the president for his reelection campaign. ("Bundling" is the practice of gathering together a group of donations, and was popularized because of legal limits in individual contributions. It has been used particularly aggressively by Presidents George W. Bush and Obama.)

Gips went on to take charge of hiring in the Obama White House and (was later) named ambassador to South Africa. And his company, Level 3 Communications, was granted millions in stimulus contracts for broadband projects. Gips told iWatch he was "completely unaware" of the federal windfall. The company has taken $13.8 million in stimulus money.

The report found that 80 percent of Obama bundlers who raised $500,000 or more for Mr. Obama - many of whom are being asked to do the same for his reelection bid - ended up in "key administration posts," in the words of the White House.

At the New York Times, Nicholas Confessore notes the president's reliance on bundlers:
More than half a million people have donated to the president’s campaign or his joint fund with the Democratic National Committee since Mr. Obama formally entered the race in April, and the two accounts gained a combined record-breaking $86 million for the campaign by the end of June. But Mr. Obama’s bundlers — 271 in all — accounted for at least 40 percent of the total, according to the campaign’s estimates.

Mr. Obama’s elite donor corps live in 26 states and the District of Columbia, though a vast majority live in the traditional centers of political fund-raising: Texas, Florida, California and, above all, New York.
Confessore notes the impact of incumbency:
In March, for example, Mr. Obama hosted about 30 supporters, many with ties to Wall Street, at an informal discussion in the Blue Room of the White House about financial regulation and the economy. No money was raised at the event, which was similar to receptions and events held by past presidents.

But 17 of those guests appeared on Friday’s list of bundlers for Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign, accounting for a minimum of $3.95 million of the $86 million he raised.

“It’s high-priced access to closed policy discussions with deep-pocketed individuals, just like it’s always been,” Ms. Miller said.

But incumbency can also complicate fund-raising. Only about one in five of the supporters who bundled checks for Mr. Obama last time appear on the list disclosed by his campaign Friday.

One reason for the drop-off: Upon taking office, Mr. Obama appointed dozens of his top fundraisers to ambassadorships, government advisory boards or jobs in his administration, perches from which they may be prohibited from raising campaign money for the president. One such supporter, Matthew Barzun, resigned in April as the United States ambassador to Sweden to become the Obama campaign’s national finance chairman.

Mr. Obama, unlike his Republican opponents, has made a point of swearing off contributions from registered lobbyists and corporate political action committees.

But the president’s bundlers include business executives whose companies have substantial interests before the federal government. Marc Benioff, who raised more than $500,000, is also chairman of, a company whose software the Obama administration has adopted for wide use in federal agencies. Another bundler, Michael Kempner, is president of the MWW Group, a national public affairs company that has a lobbying practice in Washington.