Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

By Justin Rood

Feb 20, 2007 3:41pm

Democratic Illinois Senator Barack Obama is slated to hit Hollywood tonight for a high-profile fundraising event expected to bring in over $1 million to his 2008 presidential campaign. Tickets are $2,300 a pop; that’s the maximum allowable donation to a presidential primary campaign.  But if you’ve sold at least 19 tickets to friends, you can take credit for raising $46,000 for Obama, which wins you a seat at a "private dinner" tonight at David Geffen’s mansion with Obama himself. The practice of taking credit for donations you corral is known as "bundling."  It is used in nearly all campaigns for Congress and the White House, although to date it has been largely unreported. (Some have publicized the information, notes Massie Ritsch of the political money watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics: George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns promoted the identity of its bundlers as "Rangers" and "Pioneers." Their success may have encouraged others to do the same, according to Ritsch.) Obama has pushed for a new law that would force campaigns to disclose bundles from registered lobbyists.  And he’s one of just a handful of 2008 presidential candidates who have promised to disclose the names of those bundlers, regardless of their profession. So, who are the bundlers that will be sitting down tonight in entertainment mogul Geffen’s Beverly Hills dining room?  ABC News called Obama’s campaign to find out. “It’s not something that we’re giving out,” Obama’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, said. But hasn’t Obama’s campaign enjoyed positive press coverage for promising to disclose the names of his bundlers? "We’re just not in the business of releasing the names of our fundraisers and that sort of thing," Psaki said. "So I can’t really help you with that." Obama’s pledge, of course, was widely reported.  Just this Sunday, the Washington Post celebrated the Illinois senator’s promise, along with those by presidential hopefuls (and fellow senators) John McCain, R-Ariz.,  and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., to disclose the names of their bundlers. Minutes later, Psaki called back to "clarify."  "We are going to be releasing those names," she said – "but not until the end of the quarter." That means the Obama for President campaign will release the names of those at the Geffen soiree on April 15, when the Federal Election Commission requires reports for the first three months of 2007. But, she assured, "We certainly do want to be transparent with the process, and we plan on doing that." If you know who they are today – (after all, the chefs by now should be whipping up the amuse-bouches and the waitstaff are counting out wine glasses) – why not release that information immediately? No dice. "We aren’t releasing. . .  the names of people who are attending private fundraisers" until the end of the quarter, Psaki told ABC News.

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