Republican Presidential Candidates Keep Top Fundraisers Secret, Breaking With Precedent

Jul 20, 2011 6:00am

gty gop debate jp 110614 wb Republican Presidential Candidates Keep Top Fundraisers Secret, Breaking With Precedent

ABC News’ Devin Dwyer (@devindwyer) reports:  None of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates will reveal a full list of their top campaign fundraisers, breaking from a precedent of transparency set by President George W. Bush and continued by 2008 GOP candidate John McCain and President Barack Obama.

In statements to ABC News, spokesmen for each campaign confirmed they would keep the names of their so-called “bundlers” secret — or, in the case of Ron Paul, admitted “we don’t really have any.” 

Bundlers are wealthy and well-connected individuals who give the maximum legal contribution to a campaign — $2,500 for the primary — and then get their friends and associates to do the same.  The donations are “bundled” together, often totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

Candidates are not required by federal law to report or publicly release the names of these fundraisers or their amounts bundled, unless they are registered lobbyists. But since the 2000 presidential campaign, many candidates have voluntarily disclosed some of that information.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who disclosed all the names of his bundlers during the 2008 primary campaign, will only now reveal the identities of five registered lobbyist-bundlers who helped him net $18 million in the second quarter.

“We disclose all of the information about our donors as required by law, and anyone who is interested can review it publicly,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. 

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has also opted to keep details of his top financing team secret. “We are following the FEC's disclosure laws to the fullest extent,” said spokesman Alex Conant. Pawlenty reported raising $4.4 million between April and June.   

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich both also declined through spokesmen to release information on their bundlers.   The campaigns of Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum –- all which have not revealed their bundlers — didn’t immediately respond to request for comment. 

“It’s something that’s expected this day in age, and it’s definitely an aberration that we don’t have a list of bundlers for Republican candidates,” said Gabriela Schneider of the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog. “If they have nothing to hide about who they’re collecting money from, they should just put out a list.”

Last week, President Obama voluntarily revealed the identities and contribution ranges for 244 bundlers  who have brought in at least $35 million for his reelection campaign. The list includes well-connected and wealthy elites, including Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine and DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. 

“President Obama has set a high standard for disclosure, implementing transparency measures that go above and beyond the law regarding his activities in the White House as well as his activities on the campaign trail," said Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a statement.

"If Republicans were to release the lists of their campaign bundlers, I anticipate that the public would see a laundry list of representatives from Big Oil and other moneyed special interests," she said.   

Good government groups say candidates' bundler lists should be open to scrutiny by the general public because they provide a window into their circles of influence. 

“If you have knowledge about who is bundling cash, then you have knowledge about the biggest players supporting a campaign – well beyond just the folks who are maxing out their individual donations,” said Dave Levinthal of the Center for Responsive Politics in an interview last week. 

“This gives the public an opportunity to see, at an intimate level, who truly are the biggest of the big influencers within a campaign."

So far, Obama is the only one to give the American people such a glimpse. 

ABC News’ Emily Friedman, Matthew Jaffe, Jason Volack, Arlette Saenz, Sarah Kunin, and Susan Archer contributed to this report.  

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