In an effort to cast himself as independent of the influence of money on politics, Senator Barack Obama often highlights the campaign contributions of $200 or less that have amounted to fully half of the $340 million he has collected so far.
But records show that a third of his record-breaking haul has come from donations of $1,000 or more – a total of $112 million, more than the total of contributions in that category taken in by either Senator John McCain, his Republican rival, or Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, his opponent in the Democratic primaries.
Behind those large donations is a phalanx of more than 500 Obama “bundlers,” fund-raisers who have each collected contributions totaling $50,000 or more. Many of the bundlers come from industries with critical interests in Washington. Nearly three dozen of the bundlers have raised more than $500,000, including more than a half-dozen who have passed the $1 million mark and one or two who have exceeded $2 million, according to interviews with fund-raisers.
While his campaign has cited its volume of small donations as a rationale for his decision to opt out of public financing for the general election, Obama has worked to build a network of big-dollar supporters from the time he began contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate.
He tapped into well-connected people in Chicago before the 2004 Senate race, and, once elected, set out across the country starting in 2005 to cultivate some of his party’s most influential money collectors.
[…]An analysis of campaign finance records shows that about two-thirds of his bundlers are concentrated in four major industries: law, securities and investments, real estate and entertainment. Lawyers make up the largest group at about 130, with many working for firms that also have lobbying arms. At least 100 Obama bundlers are top executives or brokers from investment businesses – nearly two dozen work for financial titans like Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. About 40 others come from the real-estate industry.
The biggest fund-raisers include people like Julius Genachowski, a former senior official at the Federal Communications Commission and a technology executive who is new to big-time political fund-raising; Robert Wolf, president and chief operating officer of UBS Investment Bank; James Torrey, a New York hedge fund investor; and Charles Rivkin, an animation studio head in Los Angeles.
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