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When is fundraising considered bundling?

Campaigns must report contributions solicited by lobbyists

Oct. 16, 2015
By Lori Sharn

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Political fundraising

The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 requires political campaigns to report contributions bundled by lobbyists if the amount exceeds a certain limit—now set at $17,600—in a six-month reporting period. But relatively few 3L forms are filed with the Federal Election Commission.

That’s because there are so many ways to credit contributions among people and groups soliciting funds, and some aggregators prefer to stay under the radar.

The law applies only to registered lobbyists and PACs established or controlled by registered lobbyists. Some presidential candidates have released the names of non-lobbyist bundlers as well.

In the presidential contests, individuals typically receive official permission from the campaign to engage in fundraising and are assigned a tracking number for the contributions they solicit.

Top association bundlers in the 2012 election included Mitt Romney supporters Bill Graves, CEO of the American Trucking Associations, at $1.7 million and Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors at $1.4 million.

This kind of tracking is rarer for congressional candidates. At fundraising events, credit may be apportioned among several lobbyist hosts, so that none of the totals meet the reporting limit. Campaigns station someone at the door to collect checks, so the host never handles the money. But inviting donor guests may still trigger a disclosure.

“Some members (of Congress), out of an abundance of caution, file these 3L forms,” which could surprise a lobbyist who never touched the checks, said Kenneth Gross, who leads the political law practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. His advice to lobbyists and PACs: Don’t ever handle or forward checks (unless you have an authorized fundraising letter). If holding a fundraiser, talk to the campaign and make sure you know in advance whether a 3L form will be filed.

Some political committees are reporting online contributions as having been bundled. That’s the case with the National Association of Realtors, which encourages members to contribute through a Web portal to targeted candidates and to the national party committees for both Republicans and Democrats. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported bundled contributions totaling $50,500 from RPAC in the first six months of 2015.

Association bundlers in the first half of 2015
Candidates and party committees reporting contributions bundled by association lobbyists or PACs from Jan. 1 - June 30.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
     American Association for Justice PAC  — $600,285
     American Health Care Association PAC — $30,000
     National Association of Realtors PAC — $20,000
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
     National Association of Realtors PAC — $30,500
Jeb 2016 (Jeb Bush, R, for president)
     William Kilmer, SVP, Mortgage Bankers Association — $36,200
     Dirk Van Dongen, president, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors — $33,900
Hillary for America (Hillary Clinton, D, for president)
     Daphna Peled, VP, National Cable and Telecommunications Association — $23,175
     Brian Wolff, EVP, Edison Electric Institute — $26,600
Friends of Schumer (Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY)
     American Council of Life Insurers PAC — $21,500
     Lee Perlman, CFO, Greater New York Hospital Association — $135,097
Thornberry for Congress (Sen. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas)
     Bill Himpler, EVP, American Financial Services Association — $33,150

Source: Federal Election Commission