Obama Bundlers Raise Big Cash for 2012 Campaign

Jul 15, 2011 3:32pm

ABC News' Devin Dwyer (@devindwyer) reports:   President Obama’s impressive $87 million haul with the Democratic National Committee, in the first major fundraising period of the 2012 campaign, showed he hasn’t lost his touch with small-dollar donors.

But it was 244 bundlers – his most wealthy and well-connected fundraisers, such as Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg – who really brought home the bacon.

Obama’s top-dollar donors gathered at least $35 million for the Obama Victory Fund in the second quarter, personally maxing out on their contributions and convincing others to follow suit.

The figures were voluntarily released today by the Obama campaign; no GOP candidate had publicly committed to doing the same.

The list of donors, which is dominated by lawyers, financiers, business owners and Hollywood elites, is a mix of new and familiar faces, including former New Jersey Gov. and Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine and Comcast executive David L. Cohen, both who are reported to have raised more than $500,000 each.

“They’re the rainmakers,” said Dave Levinthal of the Center for Responsive Politics. 

“Bundlers are the biggest players supporting a campaign, well beyond just the folks who are maxing out their individual donations,” he said. “They serve as aggregators of cash, a critical function to a successful fundraising operation.”

The Obama campaign set a fundraising goal of $350,000 per bundler this year – a target many on the list showed no difficulty reaching. 

Twenty-seven Obama bundlers collected more than $500,000 each.  Forty-one collected between $200,000 and $500,000, while 89 gathered between $100,000 and $200,000. 

Eighty-seven bundlers netted between $50,000 and $100,000. The campaign did not provide exact amounts.  

Officials said the funds gathered by bundlers were split between the Obama campaign and the DNC. Under limits set by federal law, individuals are each allowed to give up to $5,000 to Obama for the primary and general elections, and $30,800 to the DNC for the calendar year.

“We’ve found that the numbers just keep going up,” Levinthal said of donations gathered by bundlers this year despite the recession. “Even if the economy is bad, people who are rich are still rich, and are able to participate in politics at the high level that they’re participating at.”

During the 2007-2008 campaign, 560 bundlers helped to raise more than $76 million for Obama’s campaign coffers, 10 percent of his historic total for the cycle. 

The list of donors released today is also notable for who’s not there.

Many of Obama’s biggest donors from 2008, more than 80 percent of whom received positions inside the administration, according to a recent report, are now limited in how they can participate in the campaign.

Other veteran bundlers from the last cycle have yet to  commit to fundraising again, suggesting the enthusiasm for Obama that propelled their leadership in 2008 has waned ahead of 2012.

“I have made it clear I don’t want to get involved,” said Jon Merksamer, 58, a California small business owner who helped raise close to $500,000 for Obama in 2008.

“I don’t think he’s been too liberal, or too conservative. I think he’s been too gutless,” he said. "It is a common reaction to become even angrier with people who you’d had hope for that turned out to be such a major disappointment.”

That sense of disappointment will keep him out of the fundraising game for either party this cycle, Merksamer said, but it won’t sideline his vote. “I would have no problem supporting Romney, Pawlenty, Huntsman or any one of the more traditional Republican candidates,” he said.Other former bundlers who’ve expressed disillusionment with Obama aren’t willing to go that far.

A 61 year-old physician, who requested anonymity, said the president’s compromises on the Bush tax cuts, a single-payer health care reform, and surge of troops in Afghanistan rankled him, but said, “I’m going to vote for him, but I’m just not going to work for him.”

Other former bundlers made clear that while they haven’t yet taken a fundraising leadership role, they’ll be active supporters in other ways.

Jennie and Allan Berliant of Cincinnati, members of Obama’s National Finance Committee in 2008 who bundled hundreds of thousands of dollars for the ‘08 race, were among Obama’s biggest financial backers in Cincinnati but haven’t yet “talked specifically” about how they’ll get involved for 2012.

“We are grassroots organizers as well as grassroots fundraisers,” Jennie Berliant said.

“We will do what we feel we need to do to see that Obama and Sen. Sherrod Brown [of Ohio] are re-elected,” she said.

Raye Johnson of Bryn Mawr, Pa., who bundled for Obama in 2008, hasn’t joined the fundraising game for 2012 but said don’t count her out.

“We are probably on board. We are on board,” she said of her and her husband, who’s a Philadelphia financial executive. “I’m just a more avid, passionate, outgoing person.”

Johnson said she will do whatever she can to get Obama re-elected because “the dreams he has are the dreams we share.”

“Right now I’m getting ready to do the physical part of it,” she said, stopping short of committing to help collect the tens of thousands of dollars the couple brought in during 2008.  “I not only help financially, but also out in the streets canvassing and registering volunteers.”

UPDATE: The Obama campaign notes that while 244 bundlers have played a significant role in the early fundraising effort, more than 552,000 people contributed 680,000 donations during the second quarter. Ninety-eight percent of those donations were $250 or less, according to the campaign. 

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