Correction to This Article
This editorial gave an incorrect amount for the top tier of major fundraisers reported by John McCain's presidential campaign. The top tier is those who raise $500,000 and up.

How Big Are Those Bundles?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

IT WASN'T so long ago -- last September, to be specific -- that a senator with a particular interest in campaign finance reform introduced a bill to provide important transparency in presidential campaigns. The measure, S. 2030, would require presidential campaigns to report the names of fundraisers who bring in "bundles" of individual contributions totaling $50,000 or more. The campaigns would have to report the occupations of the bundlers and the specific amounts they are credited with raising. This was a terrific idea. It's too bad that the bill's sponsor, Barack Obama, is failing to follow the rules he set out.

If you spend enough time hunting around on Mr. Obama's Web site, you might be able to unearth a list of his bundlers. (Hint: go to http://barackobama.com, click on "contact us," click on "answer center," click on category "fundraising," go to Answer 24.) You will see the names of those who bundle between $50,000 and $100,000 for Mr. Obama, the $100,000-to-$200,000 folks, and the $200,000-and-up crowd. Recently, prodded by a letter from campaign finance reform groups, and after the New York Times pointed out that the Obama campaign had not updated its bundler list for months, the Web site added a flotilla of names, along with each bundler's city and state. However, the Web site does not provide the bundlers' occupations or employers, although those should be readily available to the campaign from the bundlers' individual contributions.

John McCain, whose disclosure of bundlers had been sketchier than Mr. Obama's, told the campaign finance groups it would add employer and occupational information to his list of bundlers, promising monthly updates and saying he would include in the totals the amounts bundlers raised for the Republican National Committee to benefit the McCain campaign. The Obama campaign did not reply to the groups' letter.

The biggest flaw with both candidates' disclosures is that they stop being specific at what is a relatively low amount: $200,000 for Mr. Obama and $250,000 for Mr. McCain. The McCain campaign said it could not list a specific dollar figure "in the midst of the campaign because it is changed on an individual basis almost daily -- that is why we use broader categories." Even so, the categories could be far more specific: Campaigns know full well who has brought in $1 million or more, and who is a "mere" $200,000 bundler.

Mr. McCain's recent additions are welcome but insufficient. How far Mr. Obama's performance falls short can be measured by his own legislation.


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