Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, the 2016 presidential candidates leading the money race in the Democratic and Republican fields, are amassing fortunes that will leave them politically indebted to some of the most influential lobbyists in Washington.
Disclosures to the Federal Election Commission reveal how lobbyists for Walmart, Chevron, Facebook and Goldman Sachs have been acting as fundraising captains for Clinton and Bush, bundling donations to channel to the two frontrunners.
Lobbyists have long sought to maximize their impact over candidates by pooling donations from their deep-pocketed contacts, often by encouraging them all to make the maximum permitted donation.
A joint analysis of FEC documents by the Guardian and the Center for Responsive Politics reveals that in the current campaign cycle, Clinton and Bush have been the primary beneficiaries of the practice.
Although lobbyist bundlers helped raise only a slice of the two candidates’ overall cash hauls, their support could pay dividends, in terms of access and influence, should either be elected to the White House next year.
Clinton disclosed 40 named lobbyist bundlers who brought in, on average, $54,614. In total, lobbyist bundlers generated more than $2 million for her campaign.
Bush revealed the identities of eight lobbyist bundlers, who between them raised $228,400 at an average of $28,550.
Although Bush had fewer lobbyist bundlers, who raised less cash, the figures in his case likely show only the tip of the iceberg. The former Florida governor has opted to make an allied Super PAC – rather than his official campaign fund – the principal recipient of money to back his White House bid.
This information will therefore remain behind a wall of secrecy. Super Pacs, unlike candidates, are not required to release lobbyist bundler names.
The only other candidate who benefited from lobbyist bundlers, according to FEC records, was the Florida senator Marco Rubio, who disclosed three, including one in-house lobbyist from Goldman Sachs.
The registered lobbyist who bundled the most money for Clinton was Jackson Dunn, who works for K Street lobbying shop FTI Government Affairs. He raised $231,554. In the 1990s, Dunn worked in Bill Clinton’s White House; he now serves clients such as PepsiCo, Mastercard and Dow Chemical.
Another lobbyist playing an important role for Clinton is Tony Podesta, who has made millions from a family based empire and is considered one of the most influential Democratic lobbyists in the Beltway.
His brother, John Podesta, another alumni from Bill Clinton’s White House and a former lobbyist himself, is now Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
In addition to his brother, John Podesta can draw on the support of dozens of other lobbyists bundling donations, such as Andrew Smith, who looks after the interests of the Washington Redskins NFL team and raised $133,350, and Steven Elmendorf, a former Democratic operative who now lobbies for Facebook, Microsoft and Goldman Sachs. He helped pool $141,815.
David Jones, a partner at Capitol Counsel who includes Walmart in his long list of clients and was a member of Clinton’s finance committee in her failed run for the White House in 2008, raised $120,675, the FEC disclosures show.
Clinton amassed an additional $114,775 from in-house Microsoft, Starbucks and Exxon Mobil lobbyists who collected bundles of donations from associates.
The support from lobbyists bundlers comes against the backdrop of Clinton and Bush accumulating large war chests at the expense of mainly rich donors, many of whom are connected to formidable networks of wealthy contacts built by their families over decades in frontline politics.
Those networks are closely entwined with major corporations and their registered representatives in Washington. Bush’s two biggest lobbyist bundlers were William Killmer (who pulled together $36,200) and Dirk Van Dongen ($33,900). They lobby, respectively, for the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Wholesalers.
Bush also counts on the support of Richard Hohlt, who works for Chevron and specializes in tax legislation, and Ignacio Sanchez, a former Rubio supporter who lobbies for Diageo, the drinks conglomerate.
However, Clinton and Bush’s success in tapping up wealthy donors – both lobbyists and the wider pool of wealthy contributors in Wall Street – has not been matched by support from small donors.
Small donations – of $200 or less, which are often made online – fueled Barack Obama’s early campaign in 2007 and are considered one gauge of grassroots momentum for candidates who can claim to be comparatively free from corporate influence.
In a worrying sign for Clinton and Bush, both struggled to lure this kind support. Less than 17% of Clinton’s overall campaign tally of $47.5 million came from people who gave less than $200. For Bush, who has raised $11.4 million since announcing his presidential bid last month, the proportion was even smaller: just 3.2%. Indeed, Bush actually gave to his own campaign ($399,720) more than all of his small donors added together ($368,023),
Those figures stand in stark in contrast to candidates like Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who is mounting the most serious challenge to Clinton. He raised an impressive $15.2 million, mostly from donors giving less than $200, who contributed to more than three-quarters of his overall tally. No candidate did as well as Sanders in generating money from a broad array of small donors – his campaign said he had 284,000 individual donors whose average contribution was just $35.
On the Republican side, Ben Carson and Rand Paul also raised most of their money from a wide base of donors giving less than $200. The FEC figures, based on filings made by eligible candidates on Wednesday, cover financial activity between April 1 April and June 30.
They are obscured by the fact that Clinton, Bush and all other Republican and Democratic candidates except Sanders, who refuses to have an allied Super Pac, stand to benefit hugely from millions in uncapped donations pouring into allied political action committees.
Clinton’s Super Pac, Priorities USA, has reportedly raised an additional $15.6 million. Bush, one of a slew of Republican candidates experimenting with transferring core campaign functions to their Super Pac, will benefit from the staggering $103 million raised by Right to Rise.
Taken together, the combined Super Pac and campaign hauls – $63.1 million for Clinton and $114.4 million for Bush – eclipse the sums raised by their Democratic and Republican rivals.
Official FEC disclosures from Super Pacs, which are not bound by the same transparency laws as campaign funds, will be made public later this month.