Lobbyists rake in $14 million for Romney
Lobbyists for BP, PhRMA, foreign-owned banks raise big bucks for GOP nominee
As Republican Mitt Romney works to unify the party faithful behind him, the number of lobbyists raising money to help him secure the White House has soared.
More than five-dozen lobbyist-bundlers have raised at least $14 million for Romney's election efforts, according to reports submitted Monday. That includes 42 who raised nearly $9 million during the third quarter of 2012.
The third quarter marked the first period of pro-Romney fundraising activity for two-dozen lobbyists, according a review of Federal Election Commission documents by the Center for Public Integrity.
Among them, former Republican Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York, who raised $238,200; John Castellani, president and CEO of pharmaceutical trade group PhRMA, who raised $61,000; Brian P. Miller of oil and gas giant BP America, who raised $36,550; and Joseph Seidel of Credit Suisse, Switzerland's second-largest bank.
Two lobbyists each collected more than $1 million for Romney's election efforts from July through September, records show. Bill Graves, the president and CEO of the American Trucking Association, and attorney David Beightol of D.C.-based firm Dutko Grayling both raised about $1.1 million.
To date, Graves has now raised more than $1.6 million — more than any of the other 62 lobbyists whose names have been disclosed in federal filings.
Romney, unlike President Barack Obama, has not voluntarily released a list of bundlers — elite political fundraisers who turn to relatives, friends and business associates to raise large sums and then deliver the funds in a “bundle” to the candidate. They are often given perks and special access — both on the campaign trail and once politicians are elected.
But thanks to a 2007 law passed in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, all federal candidates are required to report information about the lobbyists who bundle money for their campaigns.
Obama, who, as president, has taken a tough stance against lobbyists in his rhetoric and policies, has not taken money from lobbyist-bundlers, according to records. He has voluntarily disclosed the names of everyone who has raised at least $50,000 for his re-election efforts.
According to his campaign's most recent disclosure in July, nearly 650 bundlers had collected more than $143 million for Obama and the Democratic National Committee. The president is expected to release an updated list with his third-quarter bundlers later this week.
All of the GOP presidential nominee's lobbyist-fundraising muscle has aided not only the Romney campaign but also the “Romney Victory Committee” — a joint fundraising organization that funnels cash to his campaign, the Republican National Committee and several other party entities.
Individuals can donate up to $75,800 to the Romney Victory Fund. The first $5,000 is directed to the Romney campaign while the next $30,800 goes to the RNC. The remaining funds are split between other participating party committees.
Romney has rejected calls from good-government groups such as the Center for Responsive Politics, the Sunlight Foundation, the League of Women Voters and the Campaign Legal Center to release additional information about his top fundraisers, unlike former GOP presidential candidates George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Romney's fundraising network extends well beyond those lobbyists named in FEC filings. Earlier this year, USA Today released a list of more than 1,000 individuals that the newspaper identified as bundlers for Romney.
Even as Romney has denied requests for increased transparency, he plans to list the names of all bundlers who raise at least $200,000 in a commemorative book after Election Day. Top supporters are also being offered special access to weekly strategy sessions, VIP retreats and signature apparel, according to Politico.
Those who raise at least $200,000 between the primary and general election will be honored at the “Stars” level, according to documents obtained by Politico, while those who bundle at least $400,000 enjoy “Stripes” level status.
Some of Romney's lobbyist-bundlers have blown past these thresholds.
In addition to Graves and Beightol, Dirk Van Dongen, the president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, and Patrick J. Durkin, Sr., of Barclays have each bundled more than $1 million. Van Dongen has raised roughly $1.2 million, including nearly $961,000 during the third quarter, and Durkin has collected about $1.1 million.
Sixteen other lobbyists have raised at least $200,000 for Romney, according to the Center analysis.
Abramoff, once a top Washington lobbyist, pled guilty to federal corruption charges in 2006 and served 43 months before being released in late 2010. The scandal prompted Congress to pass a package of new ethics rules.
Reprinted by permission of The Center for Public Integrity.