The influence game

More

I ran into Massie Ritsch of the Center for Responsive Politics--a (truly) nonpartisan outfit that tracks money as it flows through the political system. Buying influence and access is not quite as straightforward as it used to be, he explains. You have to go to a bit more trouble over it. But the people in the skyboxes at this event (as for sure at the Republican convention next week) include many of the usual suspects.

Barack Obama's 500-plus bundlers have raised at least one-fifth of his total cash. Most of the money John McCain has raised has resulted from the efforts of just over 500 bundlers--a plurality of whom are lobbyists. Bundlers, who are now listed for both Obama and McCain in OpenSecrets.org's presidential section, collect checks from others for a single candidate and "bundle" them together. Starting with the conventions, where they're invited to the best parties and given prime seats inside the hall, each bundler stands to be well connected should his or her candidate win the presidency.

Not that they need the boost. Among the bundlers are some of the richest people in the world, including hotel and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (third richest, according to Forbes magazine), oilman George Kaiser (ranked 26th) and filmmaker David Geffen (ranked 52nd). A decade ago such high rollers would simply write a check to their party of choice, but campaign finance reforms prohibiting that--ironically sponsored by McCain--now curtail party donations at $28,500. To get around that, these socialites are boosting their candidate's bottom line with a little help from their friends.

Lax rules on corporate funding of the conventions also constitute a significant loophole in the campaign-finance rules:

Private money, expected to exceed $112 million for the two conventions combined, will pay for an estimated 80% of their cost. As of August 8, 2008, 173 organizational donors -- overwhelmingly corporations but also several trade unions -- had been identified on convention city "host committee" websites. These organizations have responded to solicitations from partisan elected officials and fundraisers dispatched by the host committees. These solicitors have dangled promises of access to grateful federal elected officials.

Jump to comments
Presented by
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Technicolor Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier

Video

What Do You Wish You Learned in College?

Ivy League academics reveal their undergrad regrets

Video

Famous Movies, Reimagined

From Apocalypse Now to The Lord of the Rings, this clever video puts a new spin on Hollywood's greatest hits.

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In