Beginning in the fall, the Revolving Door Project was one of a handful of voices drawing attention to Democratic primary candidates’ failure to release the names of their most important fundraisers. In op-eds, newsletters, and across other forums throughout the fall we repeatedly made the case that this consequential information could not stay hidden.
Why were we so insistent? A candidate’s list of top fundraisers, or bundlers, provides clearer insight than perhaps any other piece of campaign material into how a candidate would actually do the job of being president.
Bundlers are no ordinary high-dollar donors. They not only generally give the max donation of $2800 themselves, but also mine their social networks to encourage their family, friends, and colleagues to do the same. The sums they collect can be truly astonishing; for example, in 2008, 47 individuals or couples bundled in excess of $500,000 for then-candidate Barack Obama. It is not hard to appreciate that delivering $100,000 to a campaign’s coffers will earn you more influence than individually donating a mere $2800 (let alone $27).
And what might these bundlers expect for their efforts? Sometimes, perhaps, they expect nothing. But it hardly seems incidental that, in the past, so many bundlers have been rewarded with plum positions in their beneficiary’s administration, or at least had a say in who gets the most important spots.
This inside path to personnel decisions is tremendously consequential. Indeed, a president’s choice of appointees is a key determinant of his/her legacy. The executive branch is vast and it would be impossible for a single person to closely control every aspect of policymaking that happens within it. As a result, a great deal is left up to the discretion of appointees, such as how aggressively to regulate a given industry or how persistently to pursue enforcement actions. If bundlers tend to either end up as appointees, or play a key role in picking appointees, then knowing the identities of these bundlers is crucial.
Of course, after months of agitation from groups like ourselves got the media interested, those candidates still in the race who are relying on bundlers — Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar — did finally release the names of their fundraisers. In order to shed light on what these names might mean for a potential future administration, the Revolving Door Project has performed an initial analysis of Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg’s lists. For each bundler we have identified past relevant employment, the sectors with which they are associated, and other presidential giving and bundling activities.
By breaking down these lists by sector in particular, we hope to clarify what these individuals’ interests might be in a future administration. Bundlers associated with Tech, for example, would likely oppose efforts to strengthen enforcement at the Federal Trade Commission, while bundlers from the private equity industry would certainly oppose any efforts to close the carried interest loophole via executive action. For further ideas at the sorts of executive actions that might come under threat from these interests, see the American Prospect’s excellent Day One Agenda.
Please see the end of this document for notes on the methodology that we employed in this analysis. If you are a member of the press or work for an NGO interested in good government, email us for access to the underlying database at oversight at cepr.net
And expect much more research from us soon on these themes!
- As of publication, Joe Biden lists 262 individuals as bundlers on his campaign website. Of that total number:
- 60 are tied to the finance industry (23%)
- 14 in Banking
- 7 in Hedge Funds
- 26 in Private Equity
- 11 in Venture Capital
- 66 to Law (25%)
- 28 to Tech (10%)
- 7 to Telecommunications (2.6%)
- 15 to Media/Entertainment (5%)
- 16 to Healthcare (6%)
- 13 to Consulting (5%)
- 85 to Politics (32%)
- 9 to Public Relations (3%)
- 45 to Real Estate (17%)
- 5 to Energy (2%)
- 60 are tied to the finance industry (23%)
(Note that individuals can be associated with more than one sector, so percentage totals can exceed 100%).
Assuming that each of these individuals were to raise merely the minimum amount of money to qualify them as a bundler ($25,000), bundlers would account for $6,550,000 of Biden’s fundraising receipts. That is equal to 17.3% of his total receipts for the first three fundraising quarters of this year. It is, however, unimaginable that many of these bundlers are not raising much more than $25,000, so the actual share of Biden’s total coming from bundling activity is certainly much higher.
“Middle-class Joe” often tries to appeal to suburban and rural voters, but much of his big money support comes from urban centers.
- 35 of Biden’s bundlers reside in New York State and 25 of those live in New York City.
- 52 live in California, 15 of whom live in Los Angeles and 4 of whom live in San Francisco. 2 reside in Palo Alto.
- 12 reside in the District of Columbia.
- 7 live in Chicago.
Joe Biden’s bundlers include eight former ambassadors, seven of whom served during the Obama administration and one of whom served in the Clinton administration.
Only one had any obvious experience in international law prior to her ambassadorship. The other seven ambassadors were finance executives, television producers, or corporate lawyers. Five of these ambassadors bundled for either Barack Obama or Bill Clinton in the past.
The so-called “Obama-Biden administration” appointed many high-dollar fundraisers to diplomatic jobs, and reporters have questioned whether Obama loyalists now fundraising for Biden may be seeking to return to the diplomatic corps as a reward for their loyalty.
Biden’s former-ambassador bundlers include…
Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, two-time Special Advisor for Secretary Initiatives under President Barack Obama and ambassador to Portugal under President Bill Clinton.
- Frawley Bagley’s late husband was an heir to the R.J. Reynolds tobacco fortune.
- Frawley Bagley raised at least $500,000 for Barack Obama in 2012 and at least $100,000 for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Denise Bauer, ambassador to Belgium under President Barack Obama.
- Bauer is a former television producer.
- Bauer raised at least $200,000 for Barack Obama in 2008 and at least $500,000 in 2012.
Alan Blinken, ambassador to Belgium under President Bill Clinton.
- Blinken is the former president of investment company Model Roland & Co., and a former president of the pharmaceutical manufacturer UCB.
Anthony Gardner, ambassador to the European Union under President Barack Obama.
- Gardner worked in private equity before his ambassadorship, and is now a lawyer at Sidley Austin, a Washington law and lobbying firm.
- Gardner raised at least $500,000 for Barack Obama in 2012.
Mark Gilbert, ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa under President Barack Obama.
- Gilbert is a former Vice Chairman of United Bank of Scotland
- Gilbert raised at least $500,000 for Obama in 2008 and 2012.
Mark Gitenstein, ambassador to Romania under President Barack Obama
- Gitenstein is a lawyer at the corporate firm Mayer Brown and a former Chamber of Commerce lobbyist
- He was an initial pick to lead Obama’s Office of Legal Policy in the Department of Justice, but had to withdraw after Public Citizen highlighted his experience as a Chamber lobbyist in the press.
Kevin O’Malley, ambassador to Ireland under President Barack Obama
- O’Malley is a lawyer with Greensfedler Hemker & Gale
James Costos, ambassador to Spain and Andorra under President Barack Obama
- Costos is a television and entertainment executive, notably working for HBO.
- Costos raised at least $500,000 for Barack Obama in 2012.
If we assume that these individuals raise for Biden the minimum that they had to have raised for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, they will have contributed $2.8 million to Biden’s fundraising haul.
10 of Biden’s bundlers have ties to the tech industry, including:
- Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer of Microsoft
- Jon Shirley, Former President, Chief Operating Officer, and Director of Microsoft
- Kim Shirley, Jon Shirley’s wife
- Michaela Berendt, a mid-level Business Operations Associate who is also the daughter of prominent Seattle lobbyist Paul Berendt
- David Zapolsky, General Counsel of Amazon.
- Lynn Hubbard, David Zapolsky’s wife.
- Michelle Kraus, head of Global Government Affairs at Hyperloop Technologies who also runs a successful consultancy called Technology and Politics.
- Courtney O’Donnell, the Global Head of External Affairs at Airbnb who was Dr. Jill Biden’s communications director during the Obama presidency.
- Wade Randlett, co-founder of the technology trade and lobbying group TechNet, who was on the Obama-Biden Transition Team.
- Ajay Bhutoria is in the tech industry and is an HR professional. He was also on the National Finance Committee for Hillary, as well as the DNC National Finance Committee.
- Erskine Bowles, Former White House Chief of Staff under Bill Clinton and a former Facebook board member, now best known for the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction campaign.
- Jeffrey Zients, a Facebook board member and president of the investment holding company Cranemere Group, who was a director of Obama’s National Economic Council.
7 of Biden’s bundlers work in the telecommunications sector. Those include two Comcast executives:
- David Cohen, Comcast’s Senior Executive Vice President. Cohen also bundled for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2012.
- Joe Waz, Senior Strategic Counselor for Comcast and NBC Universal.
14 of Biden’s bundlers work or have worked in banking. Those include:
- Federico Peña, a former board member and the head of the Corporate Responsibility Committee at Wells Fargo in the run up to the fake accounts scandal. Peña was also President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Transportation.
- Tyler Hanex, Senior Vice President at Merrill Lynch
- Heather Murren, former Managing Director for Global Securities at Merrill Lynch
- Laurence Pelosi, previously an Executive Director at Morgan Stanley
- Sanjeev Mehra, former Partner and Managing Director for Private Equity at Goldman Sachs.
- Eric Mindich, a former Partner at Goldman Sachs and the founder of Eton Park Capital Management, a hedge fund.
26 of Biden’s bundlers work or have worked in private equity. Those include:
- Alex Katz, Vice President of Government Relations at The Blackstone Group. Katz is also a former senior aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer.
- Michael Sacks, the CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management.
- Alan Patricof, the founder of Apax Partners.
7 of Biden’s bundlers work or have worked in hedge funds. Those include:
- Eric Mindich, the aforementioned founder of Eton Park Capital Management.
- Brian Kreiter, a Director at Bridgewater Associates. Kreiter is also the Lead Director of Elemental Cognition, an artificial intelligence firm. Kreiter previously worked at McKinsey & Company.
- Bill Miller, the founder of Miller Value Partners.
85 of Biden’s bundlers work or have worked in politics. Those include:
- Ned Lamont, Governor of Connecticut
- Dianne Feinstein, senior Senator from California
- Chris Coons, junior Senator from Delaware
- Bob Casey, former Senator from Pennsylvania
- Jeffrey Zients, now President of finance holding company the Cranemere Group and formerly director of the National Economic Council and Acting Director of OMB.
- Alexander Niejelow, Obama Director of Cybersecurity Policy who now runs cyber for Mastercard.
- Sarah Morgenthau, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Private Sector Office in DHS, now head of the Washington office of private investigators Nardello & Co.
- Kenny Thompson, formerly Special Assistant to the Vice President and Director of Message Events. Now the Senior Director of Government and External Affairs (lobbyist) at PepsiCo.
- Sheila Nix, Former Chief of Staff to Jill Biden and President of Tusk Philanthropies
- Alan Hoffman, former Deputy Chief of Staff to the Vice President, now the Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Herbalife
- Brian McGlinchey, now the Principal at McCarter Government Solutions (lobbyist), formerly Projects Director for Senator Joe Biden
- Michele Taylor, former advisor to Joe Biden’s leadership PAC and Obama appointee to the Holocaust Memorial Council.
- Taylor is also on the board of pro-Biden SuperPAC “Unite Our Country.” She is the only Biden bundler who also serves on the SuperPAC board.
- Harry Sloan, who was on the Mitt Romney 2012 campaign committee and is a trustee of the McCain Institute, is a Biden bundler.
- Dorothy McAuliffe, spouse of Terry McAuliffe of Virginia
- Bonnie Lautenberg, widow of Frank Lautenberg the former Senator from New Jersey.
A handful of Biden’s bundlers are currently, or have in the past, bundled for other primary candidates.
- 1 bundler, Brad Karp, is also bundling for Amy Klobuchar
- 3 bundlers, Brad Karp, Joyce Amico and Tom Safran, previously bundled for Kamala Harris
Biden has also received a great deal of support from individuals who bundled for past presidential candidates. Among Biden’s bundlers are:
- 31 individuals who bundled for Barack Obama in 2008 (out of 558 total);
- 51 individuals who bundled for Barack Obama in 2012 (out of 769 total);
- And 65 who bundled for Hillary Clinton in 2016 (out of 1,129 total).
Many of Biden’s bundlers have also supported other candidates with donations.
- 23 donated to Klobuchar
- 24 donated to Buttigieg
- 1 donated to Sanders
- 1 donated to Warren
- 26 donated to Booker
- 33 donated to Harris
61 of Biden’s bundlers (23%) have donated to at least one other candidate.
As of publication, Pete Buttigieg lists 180 individuals as bundlers on his campaign website. Of that total number:
- 68 are tied to the Finance industry (39%)
- 21 in Private Equity
- 5 in Banking
- 10 in Hedge Funds
- 15 in Venture Capital
- 24 to Law (14%)
- 26 to Tech (15%)
- 7 to Telecommunications (4%)
- 25 to Media/Entertainment (14%)
- 7 to Healthcare (4%)
- 22 to Consulting (13%)
- 24 to Politics (13%)
- 10 to Public Relations (6%)
- 18 to Retail (10%)
- 26 to Real Estate (15%)
Assuming that each of these individuals were to raise the minimum amount of money to qualify them as a bundler ($25,000), bundlers would account for $4,500,000 of Buttigieg’s fundraising receipts. That is equal to 8.7% of his total receipts for the first three fundraising quarters of this year. It is, however, unimaginable that many of these bundlers are not raising much more than $25,000 so the actual share of Buttigieg’s total coming from bundling activity is certainly much higher.
Buttigieg notoriously likes to make a great deal of the fact that he is from the “Heartland” but a large portion of his big money support is coming from those coastal enclaves he so loves to deride.
- 50 of Buttigieg’s bundlers reside in New York State and 47 of those live in New York City.
- 39 live in California, 17 of whom live in Los Angeles and 8 of whom live in San Francisco.
- 19 reside in the DC Metro Area.
- 16 live in Chicago or its environs.
Among Pete Buttigieg’s bundlers are seven former ambassadors who served during the Obama administration.
None had any obvious qualifying, diplomatic experience prior to taking his/her post. Six of them, however, were bundlers for Obama’s 2008 presidential bid.
It should be noted that Buttigieg has consistently refused to rule out the possibility that he will appoint bundlers as ambassadors should he be elected president.
Buttigieg’s former-ambassador bundlers include….
David Jacobson, ambassador to Canada under Barack Obama
- Jacobson has been the Vice President of BMO Financial Group since 2013.
- Jacobson raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Barack Obama in 2008.
Don Beyer, ambassador to Switzerland and Lichtenstein under President Barack Obama
- Beyer’s wealth derives from his family’s expansive network of car dealerships in Northern Virginia.
- After leaving his position as ambassador, Beyer ran for office in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District and won.
- Beyer raised over $500,000 for Barack Obama in 2008.
John Phillips, ambassador to Italy and the Republic of San Marino under President Barack Obama
- Phillips is a founding partner in the law firm Phillips & Cohen
- Phillips raised between $200,000 and $500,000 for Barack Obama in 2008.
Nicole Avant, ambassador to the Bahamas under President Barack Obama
- Avant has worked in music promotion.
- She is married to Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer for Netflix.
- Avant raised over $500,000 for Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012.
Robert Mandell, ambassador to Luxembourg under Barack Obama
- Mandell amassed his fortune in the real estate industry at the head of companies like Greater Construction Corporation and Greater Properties Inc.
- Mandell raised between $200,000 and $500,000 for Barack Obama in 2008.
Tod Sedgwick, ambassador to Slovak Republic
- Sedgwick has been at the head of several companies, including Sedgwick Publishing, Red Hills Lumber Company, and Sedgwick Land Company.
- Sedgwick raised between $200,000 and $500,000 for Barack Obama in 2008.
If we assume that these individuals raise for Buttigieg the minimum that they had to have raised for Barack Obama, they will have contributed $1.6 million to Buttigieg’s fundraising haul.
7 of Buttigieg’s bundlers have at one time or another worked for McKinsey & Company including:
- Adam Barth who is currently a Partner at McKinsey & Company.
- Ben Lundin who previously worked for Mckinsey & Company but is now the CEO of Pacify Health, a telehealth company.
- Hannah Granade who previously worked for McKinsey & Company but is now an analyst at Senator Investment Group, a hedge fund.
- Matthew Granade who previously worked for McKinsey & Company but is now a managing partner at 72 Ventures, a venture capital firm.
- Robert Schiff who is currently a Partner at McKinsey & Company.
- Shiva Sarram who previously worked for McKinsey & Company but is now the Executive Director of the Blossom Hill Foundation.
21 of Buttigieg’s bundlers have at one time or another worked in the private equity industry. Those include recognizable names such as:
- Hamilton “Tony” James who is the Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group, the world’s largest private equity company.
- William Rahm of Centerbridge Partners, which is well known as one of the vulture fund holders of Puerto Rico’s debt.
- Marc Bodnick who is best known for his role in co-founding Elevation Partners, a private equity firm that made investments in companies like Forbes and Facebook.
26 of Buttigieg’s bundlers are associated with Tech. Those include:
- Matt Rogers, the Chief Product Officer at Google.
- Jacob Helberg, a Policy Advisor at Google.
- Didem Nisanci, Global Head of Public Policy at Bloomberg
- Benjamin Rosen, the co-founder of Sevin Rosen Funds and former chairman of Compaq
- Matthew Granade of Point72 Ventures, a venture capital fund that focuses on investments in fintech.
A handful of Buttigieg’s bundlers are currently, or have in the past, bundled for other primary candidates.
- 2, David Millstone of Standard Industries and Douglas Silverman of Senator Investment Group are also supporting Amy Klobuchar.
- 1, Michael Kives of K5 Global, previously supported Cory Booker.
- 1, Susie Tompins Buell of Esprit and North Face, previously supported Kamala Harris.
Buttigieg has also received a great deal of support from individuals who bundled for past presidential candidates. Among Buttigieg’s bundlers are:
- 15 people who bundled for Barack Obama in 2008 (out of 558 total);
- 11 people who bundled for Barack Obama in 2012 (out of 769 total);
- And 18 people who bundled for Hillary Clinton in 2016 (out of 1,129 total).
Many of Buttigieg’s bundlers have also supported other candidates with donations.
- 15 donated to Joe Biden
- 13 have donated to Amy Klobuchar
- 5 have donated to Elizabeth Warren
- 11 have donated to Cory Booker
- 20 donated to Kamala Harris
In total, 44 of Buttigieg’s bundlers (24%) have given to at least one other candidate.
- Brad Karp, the chair of Paul Weiss, is bundling for Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden. Before they dropped out, he also bundled for Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.
- Darren Check, a partner at Kessler Topaz Meltzer Check, bundled for Booker and Klobuchar
- Some bundlers list several different versions of their name when making different donations. For example, Ronald Conway, Ron Conway, and Ronny Conway are all the same person, but Conway uses different versions of his first name when donating to different candidates.
The Revolving Door Project examined the names of all individuals that the candidates currently list as bundlers on their campaign websites. We catalogued each individual’s employment history. Based on present and past employment, individuals were sorted into one or more of the following sectors:
Federal Elected Official
Individuals can be associated with more than one sector so percentage totals will not add up to 100%.
*In both of his campaigns, Barack Obama released the names of bundlers who raised at least $50,000, while Hillary Clinton released names of individuals who raised at least $100,000. In each successive election since 2008, the Democratic presidential nominee has self-reported more total bundlers, yet Clinton’s total of bundler-driven dollars is even higher than the individual count suggests, due to these higher qualifications.
Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden have each thus far disclosed the names of bundlers who raised $25,000 for their respective campaigns, a lower standard than either Obama or Clinton. Bear in mind that the Obama and Clinton bundler lists reflect the entire 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, not just the primaries. Moreover, the 2020 Democratic primary features many more candidates than previous primaries, who are vying for a limited number of high-dollar funders. This contributes to each candidate having the loyalty of even fewer bundlers who have thus far raised even fewer dollars.
Therefore, bundler data today is unlikely to prove predictive or reflective of the final influence of bundlers in the 2020 campaign, should the Democratic party nominate a bundler-dependent candidate. It is only reflective of the role bundlers have played in the campaign thus far.
**The Politics sector includes anyone working in the lobbying industry, registered or unregistered, unelected federal political figures, and elected local political figures.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Ajay Bhutoria is in the tech industry and is an HR professional. He was also on the National Finance Committee for Hillary, as well as the DNC National Finance Committee.