Money Men: The Powerful and the Secret Names Behind Campaign Dough

Jake Tapper, Richard Coolidge & Sherisse Pham
Power Players

Political Punch

What is a 'bundler'?

In politics, a bundler plays a critical role in providing the life blood of a campaign: money.

Bundlers raise money, in chunks of $2,500, which is the maximum any individual can contribute to a campaign by law.  But bundlers raise a lot of campaign cash; with enough friends and colleagues contributing $2,500 each, the bundler can help bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars —even more — for the campaign.

Of President Obama's top 350 bundlers, Bill Allison, Editorial Director at the Sunlight Foundation, says Obama's list includes 68 who serve on some kind of government board. Obama's bundlers include George Kaiser, the single largest investor in Solyndra.

"Kaiser and folks from his foundation had a number of meetings at the White House," says Allison. "There's email traffic that shows that Solyndra was discussed at some of these meetings. So clearly…the bundlers get in the door and get the chance to present their priorities and their interests."

When President Obama was running for office he implied he would lower the number of political appointees to embassies. But a 2011 study by the American Foreign Service Association concluded that he has actually appointed more than any president in the last 20 years.

And while we're dissecting the President's bundlers, we should note we cannot do the same for his rival, Republican Mitt Romney.

Because Romney keeps his bundlers' names secret. Why not disclose? His Republican predecessors, George W. Bush and John McCain disclosed the names of their campaign bundlers.

"Romney has not made transparency an issue the way that Obama did," Allison notes. "There's always the factor for potential embarrassment when you have a bundler."

A good way to avoid embarrassment is to avoid accountability and transparency wherever possible, a calculation Romney has clearly made.

Obama has not lived up to his rhetoric on transparency, Allison says, but Romney is a completely different category.

"The way that he's running his campaign, he's doing the absolute minimum that he has to do by law, and he does not seem to be at all enthusiastic about transparency," Allison says. "All of the email traffic from when he was governor has disappeared; he has not been the most open of politicians."