Lobbyists boost Senate Democrats

Michael Beckel

Well-heeled federal lobbyists are quietly helping embattled Democrats raise serious campaign cash ahead of November’s midterm elections, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of federal records.

During the 15-month period between January 2013 and March 2014, Democratic candidates and groups easily raised more money from lobbyist-bundlers than Republicans did — about $3.7 million versus $2.5 million.

No other political candidate or group received more money from lobbyist-bundlers than the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which raised nearly $2.6 million from them despite regularly criticizing lobbyists and Republicans who associate with them.

Records indicate that Senate Democrats from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., likewise collected bundles of campaign cash from lobbyists doubling as fundraisers.

Related: How lobbyists helped build John Cornyn’s election war chest

Reid, in fact, raised a larger percentage of his campaign cash from lobbyist-bundlers than any other member of Congress: 14 percent, or $357,000 of the total $2.6 million he raised. He next faces re-election in 2016.

Udall, for his part, collected about $100,000, which represented about 1.4 percent of his $7.3 million in receipts.

On the GOP side, lobbyists raised about $1.3 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. And they raised nearly $1.1 million for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the Senate Republican whip who many worried would see a competitive primary challenge this year.

Cornyn’s haul from lobbyist-bundlers was a larger sum than any other individual politician collected and accounted for 11 percent of his total receipts.

Related: Contributions bundled by lobbyists

Bundlers, by definition, are elite political fundraisers credited by campaigns for raising money from relatives, friends or business associates. Lobbyists who bundle campaign contributions above a certain financial threshold are required by law to be identified in candidates’ reports with the Federal Election Commission.

Critics contend that bundlers have undue influence over politicians. Congress addressed lobbyists’ fundraising activities in 2007, requiring them to disclose bundling activity in the wake of the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal.

More recently, as part of his campaign to “change Washington,” President Barack Obama has eschewed money from registered lobbyists, and he banned lobbyists from bundling campaign contributions on his behalf. But many other political leaders in both parties have long benefitted from torrents of campaign cash steered their way by lobbyists.

Lobbyist Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group ranked as the Democratic Party’s top fundraising ally on K Street, records show, bundling about $550,000 combined for Reid and the DSCC.

Related: Susman on bundling effectiveness

There’s more to this story. Click here to read the rest at the Center for Public Integrity.

This story is part of Consider the Source. Seeking to ‘out’ shadowy political organizations flourishing in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. Click here to read more stories in this investigation.

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Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity. This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.