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Romney keeping secret names of his mega fund-raisers

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Romney's Florida election night campaign National Finance Committee operation (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON---GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney is trying to avoid scrutiny by being secretive about his fund-raising; where he goes to raise money and who are the individuals who help him the most.

Romney has refused to reveal the names of his "bundlers" -- people who tap their extensive personal networks to raise money.

I know Romney has a National Finance Committee stocked with bundlers because I've seen his NFC members -- easy to spot with special name tags -- getting the VIP treatment at Romney election night events in New Hampshire and Florida.

Obama voluntarily reveals his bundlers, people who help him raise $50,000 or more, with the disclosures leading at times to controversy and headaches for his administration and political operation.

For example, Obama bundler George B. Kaiser's family foundation invested in Solyndra, the failed California solar energy firm which received a federal loan of about half a billion dollars. Earlier this week, the Obama 2012 campaign returned about $300,000 raised by two Chicago brothers--one of them was a bundler--because a third brother was a fugitive in Mexico.

A Center for Public Integrity investigation found "at least 68 of 350 Obama bundlers for the 2012 election or their spouses have served in the administration, ranging from seats on advisory boards that tackle critical national issues such as economic growth, to ceremonial posts such as serving on the board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts."

At least 250 of the Obama bundlers have been to the White House since Obama took office, the center also found.

That's the point of disclosure. The public deserves the information, for better or worse. While the names of donors are made public, there is no law to force the disclosre of the names of the people who actually corral the big givers.

"If we can't follow the bundlers, we can't follow the money," said Bill Allison, the editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation, the non-partisan government transparency watchdog group.

Tonight, in Washington, donors who pay $10,000 can join Romney and his top advisors for energy, financial institutions and markets, defense, health, education, etc. at a "policy roundtable meeting" at the J.W. Marriott here.

The event is co-hosted by seven "Industry Finance Chairs" -some lobbyists or players in policy formulation.

The Democratic National Committee is pouncing on this fund-raiser, holding a press conference outside the hotel to blast Romney collecting $10,000 checks and "condemning" Romney "proposals written by and for industry insiders."

Romney press secretary Andrea Saul sidestepped the issue about voluntarily disclosing bundlers when I asked her why Romney refuses to make public their names.

"We disclose all of the information about our donors as required by law and anyone who is interested can review it publicly," she said.

Said Sunlight's Allison, "bundlers have become critical parts of the campaign apparatus. They raise money, they introduce candidates to networks of donors, they solicit donors and make pitches on behalf of the candidates to them. ....Most importantly, bundlers get tremendous access to the winning candidate, and often benefit from policy decisions."

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 9, 2012 2:15 PM.

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