Card fees carve out millions from political contributions

On its website, says its standard fee is of 10% of the money it processes. That covers the bank fees and related charges from the credit companies themselves. ActBlue's processing company, Auburn Quad, charges 3.95%, said Marissa Doran, director of strategy for ActBlue. Of that, Auburn Quad keeps 1.5% of the donation.

Neither the campaigns nor the companies would talk about their arrangements or say whether they were paying the standard rate, getting a negotiated one or receiving donated services.

Doran said the flat fees streamline a complex process. Besides, processing checks can include bank fees or labor costs, too, she said.

"We have a lot of people who have said, 'We couldn't have processed this many $5 checks,'" she said. "We basically are able to save small campaigns from having to reinvent the wheel."

Swift Boat ties

To help process his online contributions, McCain returned to Rebecca Donatelli, who helped him during his unsuccessful 2000 White House bid.

She is chairman of, Campaign Solutions and Connell Donatelli Inc., all of which are closely aligned with Republicans and at least one conservative cause McCain once criticized.

Campaign finance records show that since January 2007, McCain's campaign has paid and Campaign Solutions about $938,000, most of it for processing fees.

Among Donatelli's clients was Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the organization that suggested in 2004 that Kerry lied about his military record in Vietnam. CD Inc. — Connell Donatelli — is listed as the group's registrant, according to Network Solutions, a company that registers Internet domain names. It is unclear whether the companies did work beyond securing the Web address.

McCain, a former Vietnam prisoner of war, has condemned the Swift Boat campaign.

"I deplore this kind of politics," McCain said in 2004. "I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable. As it is, none of these individuals served on the boat (Kerry) commanded. Many of his crew have testified to his courage under fire."

McCain's campaign would not discuss its use of the companies.

Matt Grossman, a political science professor at Michigan State University, said it is not surprising McCain would continue to use Donatelli's service.

"The Republican consulting world is a small world. People tend to use the same people," Grossman said. He compared the relationship to that between Obama, an advertising firm he hired and one of its employees who, on his own time, made an Internet ad endorsing Obama while denigrating Clinton.

On its website, notes that it has handled credit-card transactions for President Bush's 2004 campaign, McCain's 2000 campaign, the Republican National Committee and GOP organizations in at least six states. Campaign Solutions has worked for 14 senators, including McCain, and for 20 state Republican Party organizations.

Donatelli, who has been lauded for her political work and for her fundraising for non-profit organizations, referred questions to the campaign, which did not comment. She is married to Frank Donatelli, whom McCain named deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee last month, shortly after winning enough delegates to secure the nomination.

Two firms for Dems

Many of the Democratic candidates have relied on a pair of processing companies.

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