Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, the 2016 presidential candidates leading the money race in the Democratic and Republican fields, are amassing fortunes that will leave them politically indebted to some of the most influential lobbyists in Washington.
Disclosures to the Federal Election Committee reveal how lobbyists forWal-Mart, Chevron, Facebook andGoldman Sachs have been acting as fundraising captains for Clinton and Bush, bundling donations to channel to the two frontrunners.
Lobbyists have long sought to maximize their impact over candidates by pooling together donations from their deep-pocketed contacts, often by encouraging them all to make the maximum permitted donation.
A joint analysis of FEC documents by the Guardian and the Center for Responsive Politics reveals Clinton and Bush have been the primary beneficiaries of the practice.
Although lobbyist bundlers helped raise only a slice of Clinton’s and Bush’s overall cash hauls, their support could pay dividends, in terms of access and influence, should either candidate be elected to the White House next year.
Clinton disclosed 40 named lobbyist bundlers, who brought in, on average, $54,614. In total, lobbyist bundlers generated more than $2 million for Clinton. Bush revealed the identities of eight lobbyist bundlers, who between them raised raised $228,400 at an average of $28,550.
Although Bush had fewer lobbyist bundlers, who raised less cash, the figures in his case are likely skewed to show only the tip of an iceberg. The former Florida governor has opted to make an allied Super PAC–rather than his official campaign fund–the principal recipient of money to back his White House bid.
This information will therefore remain behind a wall of secrecy. Super PACs, unlike candidates, are not required to release lobbyist bundler names.
The registered lobbyist who bundled the most money for Clinton was Jackson Dunn, who works for K Street lobbying shop FTI Government Affairs and raised raised $231,554. In 1990s, he worked in Bill Clinton’s White House and nowserves clients such as PepsiCo, Mastercard and Dow Chemical.
Another lobbyist playing an important role for Clinton is Tony Podesta, who has made millions from a family-based empire and is considered one of the most influential Democratic lobbyists in the Beltway.
His brother, John Podesta, another alumni from Bill Clinton’s White House (and former lobbyist himself), is now Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
In addition to his brother, John Podesta can draw on the support of dozens of other lobbyists bundling donations, such as Andrew Smith, who looks after the interests of the Washington Redskins football team and raised $133,350, andSteven Elmendorf, a former Democratic operative who now lobbies for Facebook, Microsoft and Goldman Sachs and helped pool $141,815.
David Jones, a partner at Capitol Counsel, who includes Walmart in his long list of clients and was a member of Clinton’s finance committee during her failed run for the White House in 2008, raised $120,675, the FEC disclosures show.
The support from lobbyists bundlers comes against the backdrop of Clinton and Bush both accumulating large war chests at the expense of mainly rich donors, many of whom are connected to the formidable networks of wealthy contacts built by their families over decades in frontline politics.
Those Networks are closely entwined with major corporations and their registered representatives in Washington. Bush’s two biggest lobbyist bundlers were William Killmer (who pulled together $36,200) and Dirk Van Dongen (who bundled $33,900); they lobby, respectively, for the Mortgage Bankers Association and theNational Association of Wholesalers.
He also counts on the support of Richard Hohlt, who works for Chevron and specializes in tax legislation, and Ignacio Sanchez, a former Rubio supporter who lobbies for Diageo, the drinks conglomerate.
However Clinton’s and Bush’s success in tapping-up wealthy donors – from lobbyists as well as a far wider pool of wealthy contributors outside of K Street – has not been matched by the kind of small donor support.
Small donations–measured in donations of $200 or less, which are often made online–fueled Barack Obama’s early campaign in 2007 and are considered one gauge of grassroots momentum for candidates who can claim to be comparatively free from corporate influence.
In a worrying sign for Clinton and Bush, both struggled to lure this kind of support. Less than 17 percent of Clinton’s overall campaign tally of $47.5 million came from people who gave less than $200. For Bush, who raised $11.4m since announcing his presidential bid last month, the proportion was even smaller: just 3.2 percent. Indeed, Bush actually gave more to his own campaign ($399, 720) than all of his small donors added together ($368,023).
Those figures stand in stark in contrast to candidates like Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who is mounting the most serious challenge to Clinton’s bid for the Democratic ticket. He raised an impressive $15.2 million, mostly from donors giving less than $200, who contributed to more than three-quarters of his overall tally. No candidate did as well as Sanders in generating money from a broad array of small donors–his campaign said he has 284,000 individual donors whose average contribution was just $35.
On the Republican side, Ben Carson and Rand Paul, also raised most of their money from a wide base of donors giving less than $200.
The FEC figures, based on filings made by eligible candidates on Wednesday, cover financial activity between April 1 and June 30.
They are obscured by that Clinton, Bush, and all other Republican and Democratic candidates except Bernie Sanders, who refuses to have an allied Super PAC, stand to benefit hugely from the millions in uncapped donations pouring into allied political action committees.
Clinton’s Super PAC, Priorities USA, has reportedly raised an additional $15.6 million. Bush, one of a slew of Republican candidates experimenting with a new approach expected to transfer core campaign functions to their Super PAC, will benefit from the staggering $103 million raised by Right to Rise.
Taken together, these combined Super PAC and campaign hauls–$63.1 million for Clinton and $114.4 million for Bush–eclipse the sums raised by their Democratic and Republican rivals. Official FEC disclosures from Super PACs, which are not bound by the same transparency laws as campaign funds, will be made public later this month.
Paul Lewis is the Washington correspondent for The Guardian.