Bush Attends Republican Fundraiser, Meets with Supporters in Ada

Yesterday, President George W. Bush made what will likely be his last visit to West Michigan, attending a fundraiser for Republicans at the Ada home of Dick DeVos and a meeting with business leaders–many of whom have financially supported Republican candidates–in downtown Ada.


Yesterday, President George W. Bush made what will likely be his last visit to the West Michigan area for a fundraiser at the home of Dick DeVos. According to media reports, the fundraiser netted $500,000 for Republican candidates including Michigan candidates for the US Congress Walberg and Knollenberg. Both Representatives Pete Hoekstra and Vern Ehlers spoke favorably about Bush in advance of the fundraiser.

Before the fundraiser, President Bush met with local business leaders at the Schintz East Deli in downtown Ada. The meeting–which was not open to the public–was attended by Jim Dunlap, the regional group president of Huntington Bank; Rep. Vern Ehlers; Steelcase’s Jim Hackett; Eastern Floral’s Bing Goei; Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce’s Jeanne Englehart; and 5/3 Bank’s Michelle Van Dyke. The majority of them have been financial supporters of Republican candidates according to OpenSecrets.org.

Following the meeting, the President issued a pre-written statement and answered one question from the media about Vice President Dick Cheney’s health. In his statement, Bush said that the meeting was to explain “…why I felt the rescue plan was necessary. I explained to them that I was worried that if we did not do something about the financial situation, the economics would affect a lot of hardworking people all throughout our country, including right here in Western Michigan.” He said that the plan is a temporary measure designed “to restore confidence in our financial system.” He said it is not intended to give the government long-term ownership of businesses or “enrich financiers.”

Unlike previous appearances by President Bush, this visit did not attract any protests.

Ehlers has High Hopes for Rescheduled Bush Fundraiser

Republican congressional Representative Vern Ehlers hopes that a fundraiser featuring President George W. Bush will be rescheduled and that it will attract a significant number of wealthy donors.

A Republican fundraiser planned for tomorrow at the Ada home of Dick DeVos has been canceled so that the the guest of honor–President George W. Bush–can stay in Washington DC to work on the economic crisis.

However, according to The Grand Rapids Press, the event will likely be rescheduled for some time in October. The article cites Representative Vern Ehlers who says that “We have commitments from everyone involved the he will come out later.” The Press article points out that at a recent “major donor” fundraiser in Cleveland, Bush netted $500,000 for the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican National Committee. Ehlers is quoted saying, “It would be nice if we did that in Grand Rapids” and the Press reports that Ehlers is confident that West Michigan’s wealthy will come out for the event.

Fundraising by Michigan House Candidates up 11.5%

Fundraising by candidates for the Michigan House of Representatives is up by 11.5% according to a new analysis by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network has released a new analysis of fundraising by candidates for the Michigan House of Representatives. According to the analysis, candidates for the Michigan House have raised $10.4 million–11.5% more than they did at this time in the record setting 2006 election. 296 of the 449 candidates for the House have raised $10.3 million and spent $6.9 million through August 25. The remaining 130 candidates have filed waivers indicating that they plan to spend less than $1,000 this election.

Corporate Contributions Funding Party Conventions with Little Oversight

Corporate contributions–which are largely unregulated–are funding both major party conventions this year and buying the corporations increased influence in the political process.

Corporate contributions to the Democratic National Convention (DNC) and Republican National Convention (RNC) are expected to top $112 million. However, there is only limited disclosure for these contributions and thus far it is only known where $26.1 million has come from with only a month until the conventions.

While campaign finance regulations govern donations to individual campaigns and parties, there are no similar regulations of contributions to the conventions. The conventions are not subject to such regulations–they can receive money from corporate and union treasuries and individuals can give unlimited amounts of money. Moreover, unlike political advertisements that require disclosure, there are only limited disclosure requirements for the conventions, despite the fact that they essentially function as lengthy campaign commercials.

Due to the lack of regulation, corporations give significant amounts of money to both conventions. Already this year, Qwest Communications is giving $6 million to each convention, Comcast is giving $5 million to the DNC, and Xcel Energy–which operates large nuclear plants–has given $1 million to both conventions. For corporations, who are unable to give money directly to candidates, this creates an opportunity to win the party’s favor and possibly gain influence over the party’s candidates. Given the astronomical costs of these conventions, the Democrats and Republicans are extremely grateful for the contributions, a situation wherein corporations may seek influence on legislation.

An interesting example of this is with the telecommunications industry, which recently spent heavily to pass legislation granting the industry immunity from several lawsuits over an illegal domestic surveillance program. In addition to giving money to individual legislators, telecommunications companies have also given significant amounts of money to both conventions–especially the Democratic National Convention. As many folks will likely remember, the Democrats’ reversed their opposition to the immunity provision and many–heavily supported by telecommunications money–recently voted to grant immunity. As a thank you, each delegate (many of whom are elected and party officials) and member of the media will receive the following bag–complete with the logo of one of the major benefactors of the immunity provision:


Michigan PACs Raise $27.3 Million So Far

The top 150 PACs in Michigan have raised over $27.3 million thus far in the 2008 election cycle. While the amount is down slightly from 2006, that may change as individuals and interest groups have shown in the past that they can contribute significant amounts of money in short order to influence public policy.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network reported yesterday that Michigan’s top 150 political action committees (PACs) have already raised $27.3 million this election cycle. While the total is down by 9% compared to the 2006 elections, it may reflect the fact that there is a shorter ballot with no statewide executives, senators, and only one supreme court race. However, Michigan Campaign Finance Network director Rich Robinson says that can change quickly – “here are a number of individuals and interest groups in Michigan that have a demonstrated ability to bring a million dollars to the table in a hurry. It’s not legal to do that in the world of federal campaign finances, but those are the rules we live by.”

Michigan House Candidates Fundraising up 15.8%

Candidates in the Michigan House of Representatives’ primary election have raised $8.4 million–15.4% more than in 2006.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network is reporting that the 449 candidates in the Michigan House of Representatives primaries have raised $8.4 million through July 20. Incumbents have raised an average of $52,997 each while challengers raised an average of only $16,648. For open seats, the average raised was $27,779. The fundraising is up by 15.8% from the 2006 primaries.

The organization has also prepared a summary of candidates’ fundraising.

Campaign Financing and Double Standards

Michigan Democrats criticized Republican John McCain for attending a $2,300 per person fundraiser in West Michigan yesterday, while trumpeting the fact that they held a fundraiser for only $2.30 per person in response. However, the reality is that the Obama campaign is also relying on wealthy donors.

Yesterday John McCain was in West Michigan at the lakeshore home of Peter Secchia for a fundraiser. According to the Grand Rapids Press, donors gave $1.2 million dollars to the Republican presidential candidate.

To counter his visit, the Kent County Democratic Party held a picnic at Millennium Park and invited State Party Chairman Mark Brewer to speak. Both WOOD TV 8 and the partisan website West Michigan Rising mentioned the Democratic Party picnic in their coverage of McCain’s visit. The two outlets largely repeated Democratic Party’s intended message–that ordinary folks are supporting Democratic candidate Barack Obama whereas wealthy donors are funding the McCain campaign. For example, West Michigan Rising wrote

“Folks donated $2.30 for a hot dog and lemonade — 1/1000 what folks are paying to hear the same old failed Republican policies out by the lake. It was a clear message to John McCain that West Michigan voters want the kind of change that will get Michigan back on the right track.”

It seems that the Democrats are attempting to claim that the Obama campaign receives its money from working people and not wealthy sectors of society like the McCain campaign. This simply isn’t true. If you go to the Center for Responsible Politics website, you will find that the top donors to the Obama campaign are some of the same money interests that are donating to McCain, such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Even on a local level, one can find similar donating patterns to both Obama and McCain. Each of them is receiving small donations and both of them are receiving some sizable donations from a few individuals. For example, the largest donors from the 49506 zip code so far are Paul Potter who donated $4,600 to the Guiliani campaign and the $13,800 that has been donated to the Obama campaign by Bill and Susan Lewis, the owners of Yesterdog. Even a few months before his Van Andel Arena appearance, Obama was in town at a private fundraiser in Grand Rapids that required $1,000 to attend. If you could donate $2,500 or more, you were an official sponsor of the fundraiser.

To date, Obama has broken fundraising records for a presidential candidate and even opted out of the federal campaign funding, despite his earlier promise to accept federal funding. Democrats and Obama supporters have attempted to minimize this shift by pointing out that it is irrelevant as Obama’s campaign receives most of its financial support from individuals giving less than $200. However, while this may be statistically true, it is somewhat dishonest to say that wealthy donors are not playing a significant role in Obama’s campaign. In the recent article “Who Owns Obama?,” Pham Binh writes:

“To deflect criticism of Obama’s flip-flop on the issue, apologists for Obama and the candidate himself have made much of the fact that 45 percent of his money comes from small donors (defined as those who donate $200 or less). He claims that these small donors “will have as much access and influence over the course and direction of our campaign that has traditionally been reserved for the wealthy and the powerful.”

In reality, big contributors have far more influence in and access to the campaign than the voter who shells out $200 because he or she really believes in Obama’s message of change. These small donors did not get advance copies of Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech addressing the Reverend Wright controversy. They do not participate in weekly and quarterly conference calls with the head honchos of the campaign and with Obama himself.

To sit on the “national finance committee” that gets advance copies of speeches and access to the campaign’s decision-makers, donors must bundle contributions of $200,000 or more from friends, associates, co-workers, and employees. The top 79 bundlers for Obama’s campaign, 5 of whom are billionaires, are responsible for 27,000 checks from individuals for the legal maximum of $2,300. Of those bundlers, 18 work at top law firms and 21 are Wall Street executives and power brokers from Fortune 500 companies. Others include hedge fund executives, Silicon Valley capitalists, Chicago-based developers, and black millionaires.

Of course, that’s not counting the money Obama has raised by exploiting the very same loophole in campaign finance laws that he blasted McCain for. He got $28,500 donations recently by dining with rich couples in Hollywood for a grand total of $5 million in one event. (That money goes to the party, circumventing the $2,300 legal limit on individual donations to candidates, which is a joke since Obama now controls the Democratic Party).”

McCain Fundraiser Host has Longstanding Relationship with McCain

Peter Secchia–who is hosting a fundraiser for Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain in Grand Rapids next week–can boast of having a personal relationship with the candidate.

Peter Secchia, former CEO of the Grand Rapids-based Universal Forest Products and host of a fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate John McCain next week, has a longstanding relationship with McCain. Secchia–who’s birthday party several years ago at the Amway featured Vice President Dick Cheney–is a prominent Republican fundraiser who has considerable personal contact with influential Republican lawmakers.

In recent years, Secchia has worked to oppose Native American casinos and has used his influence to speak with President Bush, Karl Rove, and various legislators about his opposition to a casino near Gun Lake, Michigan. Among those legislators was Senator McCain, whom Secchia said called him from the floor of the Senate during a key vote:

Secchia has contributed thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and parties for several years and has given $22,900 to Republican candidates already this election cycle.

McCain Taps into Bush Fundraiser


The New York Times has reported that Senator John McCain has brought on board Mercer Reynolds to assist in his fundraising efforts. Reynolds, according the New York Times, helped “Bush raise a record $273 million for the 2004 re-election campaign.” The Times reporter Elizabeth Bumiller claims:

“The development was a major sign that the Republican financial establishment was coalescing around Mr. McCain, who has often been at odds with his own party, particularly conservatives. It also signaled that Mr. Bush’s political apparatus was moving into action for Mr. McCain, a onetime insurgent and competitor to Mr. Bush in 2000 who has had a difficult relationship with the president.”

It may be too early to tell if the GOP will truly back McCain, but it is clear that his campaign means business by hiring Reynolds. Reynolds has a long history of strong relationships to corporate America. He used to work for Coca Cola, he was a business partner and cofounder of Reynolds, DeWitt & Co., co-chairman of Spectrum 7 Energy Corporation, Chairman and CEO of Reynolds Plantation, an 8000-acre lake and golf community on Lake Oconee, east of Atlanta, Georgia, according to SourceWatch. In 2001 he was confirmed as United States Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

In addition, the New York Times reports that Reynolds “Other major fund-raisers for Mr. McCain include Henry R. Kravis, the financier; A. Gerald Perenchio, the former chairman and chief executive of Univision Communications, the nation’s largest Spanish-language broadcaster; and Lewis M. Eisenberg, the former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.” As of the last campaign finance reporting, McCain had raised just over $41 million, far behind both Barack Obama ($102 million) and Hillary Clinton ($115 million).

Number of Lobbyist-Fundraisers for Presidential Candidates Already Exceeds 2004 Totals

Whitehouseforsale.org, the presidential election fundraising project for Public Citizen, on Monday released details on the amount of lobbyist-fundraisers that the presidential candidates have recruited so far. The combined number of lobbyist-fundraisers is already at 142, which exceeds the amount recruited by candidates in 2004. Public Citizen states:

“Republican John McCain has more lobbyist-fundraisers than any other candidate, with nearly twice as many as runner-up Rudy Giuliani. Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton has the most lobbyist-fundraisers, which is not surprising because her chief opponents have adopted a policy of not accepting help from current lobbyists. Barack Obama and John Edwards each have bundlers who previously registered as lobbyists and are counted in this study.”

Candidate Number of Lobbyist Bundlers

John McCain 59

Rudy Giuliani 35

Hillary Clinton 20

Mitt Romney 16

Barack Obama 10

John Edwards 3

Public Citizen will provide a regular updates on lobbyist-fundraisers for the presidential candidates over the course of the campaign.