March 25, 2012

Two Mainers help raise a bundle for Obama

The Cape Elizabeth women are among a group of 444 people who deliver sizable campaign donations.

By Jonathan Riskind jriskind@mainetoday.com
Washington Bureau Chief

WASHINGTON — When President Obama arrives in Portland on Friday to collect campaign cash, two Mainers who are among his elite national fundraisers will be on hand to greet him.

WHO ELSE IS A BUNDLER?

Prominent figures among President Obama's 444 volunteer fundraisers:

Gary Hirshberg, CEO, N.H.-based Stonyfield Farm

Jeffrey Katzenberg, movie producer

Eva Longoria, actress

Harvey Weinstein, movie producer

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief, Vogue magazine

Bonnie Porta and Karen Harris co-chair Obama's volunteer state fundraising effort – and they also are the only Mainers on Obama's national roster of big bucks "bundlers" of campaign contributions.

Porta and Harris, both Cape Elizabeth residents, have steered between $200,000 and $500,000 each to Obama's 2012 reelection bid, according to an Obama campaign list that contains broad ranges of fundraising achievement.

Individuals can contribute a maximum of $2,500 per primary season, and the same amount for the general election, directly to any federal candidate. But there are no limits on how much someone can solicit, collect and hand over to a campaign in the practice known as bundling.

Other bundlers on Obama's national list include prominent names, such as actress Eva Longoria and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, as well as corporate executives from companies like Microsoft and Stonyfield Farm.

"Bundlers are people with friends in high places who, after bumping against personal contribution limits, turn to those friends, associates, and, well, anyone who's willing to give, and deliver the checks to the candidate in one big 'bundle,' " says the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign finance research organization. "Together, 444 elites are directing at least $74.2 million for Obama's re-election efforts – money that has gone into the coffers of his campaign as well as the Democratic National Committee."

While some of the bundler money goes to the party committee, it still is a big part Obama's overall fundraising effort, which totaled about $157 million as of the end of February.

Porta and Harris declined to be interviewed. They released a statement through the Obama campaign that said in part they are "delighted to co-chair the volunteer Maine Finance Committee comprised of Mainers from across the state."

The Obama campaign also declined to elaborate on the Mainers' fundraising roles or how it tracks their bundling efforts.

In Obama's 2008 campaign, Porta's husband, Robert C.S. "Bobby" Monks, was one of two Mainers listed as a bundler who generated between $100,000 and $200,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Monks is a real estate developer and a minority owner of MaineToday Media, which publishes The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and several smaller media products.

The other 2008 Maine Obama bundler was Severin Beliveau, a prominent State House lobbyist and former state legislator and Maine Democratic Party chair. His son Emmett is a high-level staffer in the Obama White House. Beliveau was in the $50,000 to $100,000 bundling range.

The fundraisers Friday, at the Hutchinson Union Building at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, are expected to draw up to 1,700 people. A much smaller dinner event will be held in the evening at the Portland Museum of Art where about 100 donors are expected.

Tickets for the larger event start at $100 for general admission – though student tickets start at $44 – and range up to $10,000 for entry to a photo reception with the president. Admission to the dinner ranges from $5,000 to a $30,000 contribution to the Democratic National Committee.

Leading up to Friday's fundraisers, Mainers have given Obama's 2012 campaign more than $716,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

It isn't known just how many of the Maine contributions were generated by Harris and Porta, who also could have raised money from out-of-state contributors.

But what is known is that there can be rewards for big bundlers, including access to the president at small events, invitations to White House dinners and even ambassadorships.

(Continued on page 2)

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