Plenty of big donors and Washington-area bundlers are still sitting out the money chase. As of June 30, more than two-thirds of the 131 bundlers who had raised $100,000 or more for McCain had yet to donate to a presidential contender in 2011, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity. That is starting to change, but many remain undecided.
“I’m not going to get involved,” said Charlie Black, chairman of the Prime Policy Group and a major GOP donor who raised at least $100,000 as a “Pioneer for Bush.” “Maybe in the general election if the nominee asks me to.”
Black said his candidate of choice had been Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
K Street is not the most lucrative place for GOP presidential hopefuls to go looking for bundlers, the well-connected money raisers on whom candidates rely to round up $2,500 checks from dozens of individuals. The big donor states remain California, Florida, New York and Texas — places where both Perry and Romney are also trolling for bundlers and donors.
But D.C. remains an important influence center for both frontrunners, particularly as they angle for endorsements on Capitol Hill.
Perry, who until now has drawn heavily on his home-state connections to raise money, is getting some help from the Texas-on-the-Potomac crowd, including Dennis Stephens, a government affairs counselor for K&L Gates who served on the staffs of former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Rep. Joe Barton, both Texas Republicans.
Another former Barton aide, Jeffrey M. MacKinnon, now a partner at Ryan, MacKinnon, Vasapoli and Berzok, is helping host one of Perry’s kickoff events. Also on the host committee is Matt Mackowiak, founder and president of the Potomac Strategy Group and a former press secretary for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) who also helped with the Bush campaign.
The struggle between Romney and Perry for the heart of K Street contrasts with other GOP primaries over the past decade, when Bush in 2000 and McCain in 2008 enjoyed extensive Washington, D.C., support from the outset. Romney picked up friends here during his last presidential bid, leaving Perry with the most work to do. As invitations fly around town for the competing Perry and Romney fundraisers, many expect the donor picture to finally come into focus.
“Events like this have a way of moving the decision-making process along,” said Alan C. Sobba, chief policy and communications officer for the International Derivatives Clearing Group, who is on the host committee for one of Perry’s kickoff Washington events. “Some people support both candidates. So what these things tend to do is start to force people to make a decision.”