K Street has largely turned a cold shoulder to the 15 Republicans and five Democrats dominating the presidential contest, as lobbyist bundlers take a back seat to both low-dollar contributors and mega-donors bankrolling outside groups.
Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, remains K Street’s favorite in the Republican column, having collected just under $500,000 since January with lobbyists’ help. Rubio is the only senator seeking the White House who’s relying on lobbyists to bundle, or round up, money on his behalf, according to newly released Federal Election Commission reports.
Rubio has relied exclusively on three lobbyist bundlers: Joseph C. Wall, vice president of government affairs for Goldman Sachs; Geoffrey K. Verhoff, a senior policy adviser at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld; and Scott Weaver, who co-chairs the public policy practice at Wiley, Rein.
Verhoff's clients include Caesars Entertainment and Philip Morris International, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. Weaver's include the National Association of Broadcasters and the Satellite Industry Association.
The only other GOP presidential candidate getting a meaningful leg up from K Street rainmakers is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who’s collected just under $408,000 in contributions bundled by lobbyists – tellingly, almost $100,000 less than Rubio has. K Street appears to be cooling to Bush in favor of Rubio, the disclosures show; lobbyists bundled $179,525 for Bush from July 1 through Sept. 30, and $365,605 for Rubio in the third quarter.
A third Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, reported bundling help from a single lobbyist: David Tamasi, a senior vice president at Rasky Baerlein, who has pulled in $23,400 on Christie’s behalf. Tamasi's leading clients include several regional health care providers, including the Eastern Maine Medical Center, according to the Sunlight Foundation, which promotes government transparency.
Christie has raised a relative pittance for his campaign overall, with $4.2 million in receipts since January, and only $1.4 million cash on hand.
The presidential candidates dominating the 2016 money chase have done their fundraising largely without the help of K Street, a departure from past campaigns when well-connected Beltway insiders played a key role rounding up so-called hard dollar contributions that are subject to FEC limits.
That’s partly because unrestricted super PACs and politically active tax-exempt groups are raising as much or more this time than the candidates themselves, pulling in multi-million-dollar checks from deep-pocketed billionaires. Such outside groups do not file their next FEC disclosures until January 2016, so the latest filings are an important benchmark of candidates’ ability to raise smaller contributions.
Leading the Republican pack in this column is retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has raised $31.4 million for his campaign since the start of the campaign, largely from low-dollar donors, and has $11.3 million cash on hand. Next come Sens. Ted Cruz, of Texas, who has collected $26.6 million for his campaign and has $13.8 million cash on hand, and Rubio, whose campaign has raised $25.3 million and reports $11 million cash on hand.
Ranking fourth in campaign receipts is Bush, whose outside group allies have raised more than $100 million, but who has struggled to drum up grassroots support. Bush’s hard-dollar campaign receipts total $24.8 million, and he has $10.3 million cash on hand. His leading lobbyist bundlers include GOP consultant Richard Hohlt, who has netted $54,400 for Bush, and William Killmer, a senior vice president with the Mortgage Bankers Association, who has pulled in $63,100.
In the Democratic column, only one candidate — former secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — has received any bundling help from K Street. Lobbyists have rounded up $3.2 million for Clinton since the beginning of the year, according to the latest FEC filings.
Heather Podesta, of Heather Podesta + Partners, has collected more than $350,000 for Clinton. Other top Clinton lobbyist bundlers include David Jones and Richard Sullivan, of Capitol Counsel, who have brought in approximately $229,000 and $250,000 respectively. Clinton’s campaign receipts total $77.5 million, far more than any other candidate, and she has $33 million cash on hand.
Vermont independent Sen. Bernard Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, has rejected help from outside groups and K Street alike but has accelerated his fundraising with the help of low-dollar contributors. Sanders has netted $41.5 million for his campaign and has $27.1 million cash on hand.