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

Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.


Elsewhere on the web

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

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In