To whom will the next president be most indebted for helping to finance his or her campaign? The most accurate answer is that it is almost impossible to know. This election could end up being the first to be financed entirely with private money, if the eventual nominees choose not to take public financing. Even now, before the fourth-quarter fundraising totals come in, the presidential candidates have raised a combined $420 million. But the identities of the well-connected fundraisers who have helped haul in these big bundles, and the amounts they have brought in, remain far from clear.
Candidates are not required to reveal the identities of bundlers - people who collect contributions from many individuals - and disclosure records range from inadequate to spotty to nonexistent. The best, but still inadequate, disclosure comes from Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, who have provided the identities of their big bundlers and the amounts but only within broad ranges. Clinton, for instance, lists 311 Hillraisers who have brought in at least $100,000 each - but with no indication of how much each is responsible for. Obama is slightly more specific; he lists bundlers within the ranges of $50,000 to $100,000; $100,000 to $200,000; and $200,000 and up. Just how much information that leaves out was made clear earlier this year when the Clinton campaign returned the $850,000 that had been brought in by disgraced - now indicted - businessman Norman Hsu.
The real solution, contained in a bill recently introduced in Congress and sponsored by all four Democratic senators running for president, would be to require the disclosure of presidential bundlers. The chief goal of this important measure is to overhaul the obsolete system of providing public financing for presidential campaigns. As part of that larger change, however, the bill would require campaigns to disclose the identities and amounts of all individuals or groups that bundle contributions totaling more than $50,000 in the four-year election cycle.
As the current presidential campaign demonstrated even before 2008, this disclosure is critical.
- Washington Post
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