President Barack Obama's campaign team has signed up an early wave of elite fundraisers who have collected at least $34.95 million combined since April, helping bankroll the president's re-election bid.
The Obama campaign on Friday voluntarily disclosed its list of 244 individuals and couples who serve as "bundlers," often wealthy, well-connected donors who raise campaign cash from friends and business associates.
The campaign has emphasized its more than 550,000 donors and notes that Obama does not take money from political action committees or Washington lobbyists. But the list underscores the role of high-dollar bundlers who helped Obama raise a combined $86 million through the campaign and the Democratic National Committee from April through June.
Obama's top fundraisers include leading lawyers, business executives and film industry leaders, including former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour and Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg. The three have already raised at least $500,000 apiece for the campaign. About two dozen others have each raised that much.
During the 2008 campaign, 560 bundlers collected at least $76.5 million for Obama, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, meaning Obama's team is nearly halfway to that amount in only three months. The wealthy fundraisers have helped organize high-dollar events for Obama in fundraising meccas like New York, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley and South Florida.
The activity more than a year before the election has staked Obama, who does not face a primary opponent, to a large money advantage over the Republican field. The top GOP fundraiser, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, collected more than $18 million. Obama campaign aides have told donors privately that they hope to meet or go beyond the $750 million the campaign raised in 2008.
Obama's campaign filed its quarterly financial statement with the Federal Election Commission on Friday, disclosing that it had $37.1 million in the bank after expenses. Of the $47 million raised by Obama for America, $41.8 million can be used during the primary cycle and $5.2 million must be used in the general election.
Courting a key fundraising group, Obama campaign aides have reached out to the Wall Street community even after many executives opposed financial regulatory reform and chafed at Obama calling them "fat cats" whose misdeeds led to the 2008 financial meltdown. Obama's top Wall Street bundlers include Orin Kramer of Boston Provident, Mark Gallogly of Centerbridge Partners and Charles Myers of Evercore Partners.
But absent from the list are top Wall Street executives like Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons. While none of the executives were bundlers in 2008, employees at the three firms were among Obama's most generous supporters during his first campaign.
The Obama campaign made a concerted effort to recruit former bundlers for Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, hosting small dinners with the president to let him make the pitch to them directly. Some of the top former Clinton donors raising money for Obama include Corzine, a former top executive with Goldman Sachs, Marc Lasry of the New York hedge fund Avenue Capital, Los Angeles investment banker John Emerson and Miami lawyer Chris Korge.
"They reached out and many of us were willing to do it," said Chad Griffin, a Los Angeles based communications strategist and former Clinton bundler. "This president has accomplished a lot and we want him to be re-elected."
The funding will be only part of the campaign money picture. Several independent groups not bound by donation limits have vowed to raise millions of dollars to influence next year's election.
They include Republican-backed groups like American Crossroads, linked to Karl Rove, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, and Americans For Prosperity, founded by oil billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch. Democratic groups have formed to compete with the GOP groups, including Priorities USA, which was founded by former Obama White House aides Sean Sweeney and Bill Burton.
Presidential campaigns are not required to disclose the donors, but Obama's campaign released its list of bundlers who raised $50,000 or more _ as it did in 2007-2008 _ to provide more transparency about campaign finance.
Ken Thomas can be reached at http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas
Associated Press writer Beth Fouhy in New York contributed to this report.
Obama campaign list of bundlers: http://www.barackobama.com/pages/volunteer-fundraisers-Q2