On Friday, the Obama for America re-election campaign did a unique thing, publicly disclosing a list of all of its bundlers and their approximate fundraising totals for the second quarter of 2011. No other 2012 candidate has offered this level of transparency, so it should be commended. But while a lot of the commentary so far has focused on the personalities raising money for Obama – Jon Corzine, Anna Wintour, Ari Emanuel, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Orin Kramer – a couple have noticed that the total bundlers, and their collections, adds up to a substantial portion of the Q2 fundraising haul:
About 40 percent of President Barack Obama’s record-breaking $86 million second-quarter fundraising haul came from big-money bundlers, according to a POLITICO analysis of donors listed on Obama’s campaign web site.
No fewer than 27 mega-bundlers managed to collect at least $500,000 for a joint account run by Obama’s 2012 campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
That group chipped in a minimum of $13.5 million, according to records. In addition, $21.4 million was bundled in amounts of between $50,000 and $499,000.
In all, 244 people were listed on the website as soliciting – or bundling – donations totaling at least $50,000 from their networks of friends and professional acquaintances.
Michael Shear comes up with similar numbers, but includes the caveat of “at least” $35 million from bundlers.
I think the number is actually substantially higher. As Shear writes, “Because the amount each bundler gathers is reported in a range — from $50,000 to $100,000, for example — it is impossible to know exactly how much the 244 people have collected.” But here’s what we do know. Going back to the bundler list, we know that:
87 bundled between $50,000-$100,000
89 bundled between $100,000-$200,000
41 bundled between $200,000-$500,000
27 bundled more than $500,000
Politico and NYT are reporting the minimum range there to come up with their numbers. That’s why they’re saying “at least.” Their calculations are based on:
87 x $50,000 = $4.35M
89 x $100,000 = $8.9M
41 x $200,000 = $8.2M
27 x $500,000 = $13.5M
For a total of $34.95 million, or around 40.3% of the $86.7 million total reported by Obama for America and the DNC Victory Fund. But that’s the bare minimum. I don’t think we should believe that the bundlers between $50,000-$100,000 only bundled $50,000, and so on. The number is likely to be much higher than that. Let’s say we put all of the groups in their middle range. It’s impossible to do that for the $500,000+ bundlers, because there’s no upper bound. So for them, let’s be very conservative and make the average $550,000.
87 x $75,000 = $6.525M
89 x $150,000 = $13.35M
41 x $350,000 = $14.35M
27 x $550,000 = $14.85M
For a total of $49.075 million, or 56.6% of the total. Now, we don’t know if this number is right. We know that $34.95 million is the lower bound, the bare minimum reflected in the data. This number is in the middle. It could be less. It could be more. But it’s a somewhat reasonable estimate. I think we can say with confidence that more than half of Obama’s total fundraising in the second quarter came from bundlers.
Jim Messina tried to claim in his video announcing the Q2 numbers that 98% of all donations were $250 or less, and the average contribution was $69 from around 550,000 contributors. That gives the impression of a grassroots-fueled army. Messina didn’t say that these numbers excluded the DNC contributions, mostly maxed-out $30,000 donations. And now, the fact of these bundlers complicates Messina’s narrative even more. It’s possible – in fact, given the numbers, it’s likely – that a portion of the under-$250 contributions were collected by bundlers. I think we can say with confidence that bundlers aren’t going to “ordinary Americans” for those collections. They are rich elites who go to their rich elite friends.
In fact, Obama for America only cited less than half of their total contributions – $21.4 million – as “unitemized,” meaning they were smaller than $200 donations that don’t need to be teamed with identification. You can pretty safely bet that almost no DNC Victory Fund donations were under $200. That would mean that 3/4 of all money collected by Obama for America and the DNC Victory Fund were through donations over $200. That syncs with the bundler data.
What we also don’t know is if a maxed-out donor who comes to an Obama/DNC victory event counts under the bundler who may have “hosted” that event. This will all come out as people dig through the FEC reports. But just what’s out already tells you a lot. You cannot possibly take in between $35-$50 million, if not much more, from bundlers and maxed-out donors, and claim to have a grassroots campaign.