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July 16, 2008

McCain: Top Fundraisers Are Lobbyists – Shows Him The Money

  Senator John McCain released an updated list of his top money collectors on Tuesday, revealing that nearly a fifth of those who have brought in the largest amounts for him, more than $500,000 each, are lobbyists or work for firms that engage in lobbying.  This will give us some indication of who will pull his strings and seek favors and ambassadorships if he’s elected. 

Mr. McCain added more than 400 names to an existing list of just more than 100 elite fund-raisers that his campaign first posted on its Web site in April. The campaign had promised to update the list regularly, but The New York Times reported last week that both Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Senator Barack Obama of had not been living up to promises to fully disclose the identities of those who “bundle” millions of dollars in campaign contributions for them.

Mr. Obama, who first posted a list of his top fund-raisers early last year, added more than 180 names last week to his bundler list after an inquiry from The Times, leaving him with a tally of more than 500 people who have collected more than $50,000 each for him.

In his disclosure on Tuesday, Mr. McCain went further than Mr. Obama, specifying which people have raised more than $500,000 for him — Obama’s highest category remains $200,000 and above. Mr. McCain also lists the occupations and employers for each of his top fund-raisers — those who raised $50,000 or more — information that Mr. Obama does not provide and that watchdog groups say is critical for identifying bundlers and understanding their potential interests.

Although the Obama campaign draws a much higher percentage of small-dollar contributions compared with the McCain campaign, the candidates have a strikingly similar number of high-dollar bundlers.

·        At least one fund-raiser who was originally on the McCain campaign’s bundler list was taken off. That was James Courter, chief executive of the telecommunications company I.D.T., who resigned Monday as one of more than 20 national finance committee co-chairmen for the campaign, after I.D.T. was fined $1.3 million by the Federal Communications Commission for failing to disclose contracts it had in Haiti. The fine was first reported by the Web site Portfolio.com. Mr. Courter was listed in April as raising $100,000 or more for Mr. McCain, but campaign officials said he had been taken off because he was no longer raising money.

Other fund-raisers whose activities have drawn scrutiny remained on the list, including:

·        Tom Loeffler, who had been a campaign general co-chairman. Mr. Loeffler, whose lobbying firm, the Loeffler Group, represented Saudi Arabia, among other clients, stepped down from his official McCain position earlier this year after campaign officials issued a new conflict-of-interest policy.

Of the more than 60 McCain bundlers who have raised $500,000 or more, at least a dozen are lobbyists or work for lobbying firms. They include:

·        Wayne L. Berman, of Ogilvy Government Relations, whose clients include Fannie Mae, the National Rifle Association and Verizon

·        Jack Oliver, of Bryan Cave Strategies, who lobbies for Shell Oil and Anheuser-Busch

·        Peter Terpeluk Jr., a former top fund-raiser for George W. Bushin 2000 who later served as ambassador to Luxembourg. Mr. Terpeluk works for American Continental Group and lobbies on behalf of Siemens and Ernst & Young, among others

At least one fund-raiser disclosed by the McCain campaign on Tuesday, Kenneth C. Griffin, chief executive of Citadel Investment Group in Chicago, raised money for both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama. Mr. Griffin, whose $1.5 billion in income in 2007 made him one of the country’s top hedge fund earners, collected more than $50,000 for each of the candidates.

Mr. Griffin was host of an Obama fund-raiser at his firm last year but recently helped organize an event for Mr. McCain in Chicago, revealing his true preferences, according to those close to him. Citadel spent more than $1.1 million dating back to 2007, lobbying in Washington against higher tax rates for hedge funds. Mr. McCain has opposed measures that would increase the taxes paid by private equity and hedge fund managers, while Mr. Obama has supported them.

More than 100 of Mr. McCain’s top bundlers were either Bush “Pioneers” or “Rangers,” raising more than $100,000 or $200,000 each for President Bush in 2004, demonstrating that Mr. McCain has made at least some progress in recruiting members of the high-powered fund-raising apparatus that helped Mr. Bush set fund-raising records.

 

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