Three Sectors Dominate Campaign Bundling
ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
After spending more than a year campaigning and raising more than $460 million, the candidates have a lot on the line when Iowans finally go to their caucuses on January 3rd.
But where is all these money coming from? A study out this past week sheds light on who is rounding up big contributions for the presidential candidates. The report shows a few big sectors of the economy are pouring money into the campaigns of both Republicans and Democrats. This analysis is the work of a non-profit think tank called the Campaign Finance Institute along with the advocacy group Public Citizen.
And NPR's Peter Overby has been combing through the numbers and joins me now.
Let's make this clear. We're not talking about a particular industry making a big contribution. That would be wrong and, in fact, illegal. We're talking about bundlers.
PETER OVERBY: Right. And bundlers are people who bring together a lot of small contributions into a big bundle. Individual contributors are limited to $2,300.
SEABROOK: Like campaign finance laws.
OVERBY: Right. There's no limit on what a bundler can bring in. So you have bundlers that are committed to bring in $50,000, $100,000.
SEABROOK: Wow. Wow. So what did the new study say about who these people are? I mean, it doesn't name names, does it?
OVERBY: That's right. It does not. They looked at the roughly 2,500 bundlers who've been identified for all the major candidates. And the main thing that I have found is that there are three fairly small centers of the economy that are accounting for more than half of the bund line: lawyers, finance and real estate. And this tends to spread across most of the candidates, lawyers and entertainment industry people, not surprisingly, lean toward Democrats. The real estate industry and professional lobbyists, not surprisingly, lean toward Republicans, and the securities and investment industries are kind of split between the two parties.
SEABROOK: The Wall Street.
OVERBY: Right. So you could have someone at a big Wall Street firm who is a Democrat, who is raising money, and that the same firm, someone who is a Republican who is raising money. And they could be even inviting the same associates to both events.
SEABROOK: Does the number of bundlers in the different industries have something to do with, like, a betting game - betting on who's going to win and having supported the winner?
OVERBY: Sort of. These were people who are betting on a specific candidate. You won't - you might have donors for giving to several different candidates. A bundler puts all the chips on one candidate.
SEABROOK: So what can you tell us about bundlers for specific candidates? I mean, how does - you know, Clinton's bundlers match up against Obama's and then on the Republican side as well?
OVERBY: Well, John Edwards - because he's a trial lawyer has a lot of lawyers. They dominate his list of bundlers. But if you look at Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, John McCain and Mitt Romney, most of their bundlers come from the same big industry sectors, lawyers, investment in real estate.
OVERBY: So, you know, these are the sectors of the economy that have the money, the energy, the time and the interest in doing this.
SEABROOK: And what kinds of perks do these bundlers come to expect?
OVERBY: If the candidate wins, they already have a personal relationship, you know, if they've really come through with the bundling. They get spots on the transition team, and a lot of those people have wound up as ambassadors.
SEABROOK: NPR's Peter Overby.
Thanks very much, Peter.
OVERBY: My pleasure.