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Landing Big Campaign Finance Fish

Casinos regularly ply deep-pocketed gamblers with free drinks, hotel rooms and a variety of other goodies. Score a few of these "whales" -- as these big-time betters are known -- and a casino's reputation and financial well-being receives a major boost.

Presidential politics is no different. Its whales are the wealthy men and women who form the foundation of a candidate's fundraising infrastructure.

For decades, politicians running or considering a run for national office have placed a priority on the recruitment of deep-pocketed donors, the 2000 and 2004 campaigns of President George W. Bush turned this process into an art form. Bush asked affluent individuals not simply to donate to the campaign but also to round up thousands of dollars in contributions from friends and colleagues. A tiered system was created to reward the most effective of this lot; "Pioneers" raised $100,000, "Rangers" $200,000, and "Super Rangers" $300,000.

The cataloguing of these politically active and financially influential givers provided a blueprint for any Republican candidate mulling the wide-open 2008 contest. With the price tag for the early primary and caucus season estimated at $50-$100 million, securing the support of these boffo bundlers of cash is one of the early hurdles that any serious GOPers must clear.

It's not surprising then that the courtship of these cash cows is well underway among the contenders for the Republican nomination. Today's post marks the first attempt in a series to provide a glimpse at which of these key donors have chosen a 2008 candidate. When we learn of new signees, we'll update the list.

It's important to note that the majority of Pioneers and Rangers have yet to choose sides and may not do so until well into 2008 as they weigh who makes the best investment among the candidates.

What is clear in the early going is that Arizona Sen. John McCain and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are spending the most time in the courtship of these big donors and, as a result, have enjoyed the most success in securing commitments. We hear that Virginia Sen. George Allen and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani are huddling regularly with the whales but have yet to sign any of them up. Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist has locked up several key fundraisers from the Volunteer State.

Below is a list of the major fundraisers (some were neither Rangers nor Pioneers) who have already chosen a candidate. As I mentioned above this is an evolving list and is not meant to be comprehensive. If you know of names that should be added, feel free to note that in the comments section or send me an email.

John McCain
Wayne Berman, lobbyist (D.C.) RANGER
Fred Malek, Thayer Capital Partners (D.C.)
Carter Pate, PricewaterhouseCoopers (D.C./Texas) RANGER
Bob Mosbacher, Mosbacher Energy Co. (Texas)
Tom Loeffler, lobbyist (Texas) RANGER

Mitt Romney
Peter Karmanos, Compuware Corp. (Mich.)
David Fischer, Suburban Collection (Mich.) PIONEER
John Rakolta, Walbridge Aldinger (Mich.) RANGER
Dave Phillips, Phillips Industries (N.C.) RANGER
Tom Tellefsen, Tellefsen Investments (Calif.) PIONEER
Anne Dunsmore, Capital Campaigns (Calif.) RANGER
Hadi Makarechian, Capital Pacific Holdings (Calif.)
Herb Collins, Boston Capital Partners (Mass.) PIONEER
Jim Sims (MA) GEN3Partners (Mass.)
Joe O'Donnell (MA), Boston Culinary Group (Mass.) RANGER
Tom Foley, NTC Corp. (Conn.) PIONEER
Eric Tanenblatt, McKenna Long Aldridge (Ga.) RANGER

Bill Frist
Zachariah Zachariah, cardiologist (Fla.) RANGER
Ken Eldred, Living Stones Foundation (Calif.)
Michael Lebovitz, CBL & Associates Partners (Tenn.) RANGER
Jim Haslam, Pilot Oil Co. (Tenn.) RANGER
Chip Saltsman, former Tennnessee state party chairman (Tenn.) RANGER
Ted Welch, Ted Welch Investments (Tenn.) RANGER
Jeff McWaters, Amerigroup Corp. (Va.) PIONEER

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 6, 2006; 1:08 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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President Mitt Romney???
Yes, of his condo association in Florida when he retire from Massachusetts and loses the presidency when people realize that it was not the Massachusetts Courts that brought gay marriage to america, rather his illegal executive order.

Posted by: Robert Paine | July 10, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse

For all of you moaning about how our representative democracy works I have three words for:

President Mitt Romney

Posted by: Policyshift | July 9, 2006 6:59 PM | Report abuse

I find the "tit for tat" argument very misleading. The sense that "corruption is everywhere" dilutes the real meaning of all this corruption, and it is everywhere-everywhere in the republican party,not just in terms of donations and money, but cronism is at an all time high under this most-corrupt-of-all administrations. John McCain is the model for selling out and corruption. (not to mention a reputation for a "loose zipper"...)There are so many "brownies-as in nice job brownie" that are ticking time bombs in all areas of government. It will take decades, even if we are successful in getting rid of this war criminal and his breed, they will still be putting each other in high places. (like the meeting between Karl Rove and Jack Abramoff to put some cronies in the Department of the Interior) There are so many back door deals in this groups of mafia style politicians that it may never be disclosed. This is no less than the disintegration of the system of government (I believe a democracy pre-Bush) that our founding fathers put in place. Bush has accomplished more in six shorts years to tear apart every good aspect of this country than any foreign entity could ever hope to accomplish. Kudos to republicans, the real un-americans.

Posted by: Jan | July 8, 2006 6:50 AM | Report abuse

Public financing? I guess a few people forget that the FEC has a matching fund system to help candidates raise money in presidential competitions.

You get that FEC system by checking off the $3 box on your federal tax return. Right now, the candidates like Bush and Steve Forbes in 2000, and Howard Dean, John Kerry, and Bush again in 2004 actually saved the federal government a few million by bypassing the Federal matching fund system.

Just where do the people who scream for public financing of our elections think the millions and millions would be coming from? It is our tax dollars, and I am not supportive of any chance toward totally public tax money financing each and every person who wants to run for president.

Look at Al Sharpton. He is still being investigated for failure to file his paperwork and for abuse of spending and waste of federal money which financed his race. You know, he is a Democrat, so let the Democrats defend him and his illegal behavior.

Posted by: Jack from Hackensack | July 7, 2006 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Among the listed major donors to Senator Frist is Ken Eldred of the Living Stones Foundation. The Foundation describes itself this way on its web page:
"Living Stones Foundation Charitable Trust (LSFCT) exists to serve the Lord Jesus Christ by providing financial and strategic resources to projects that lead to self-sustaining Kingdom-building ministries, where strategic support will leverage the success of the whole body of Christ."

It was known at one time as the Praise the Lord Foundation.

Posted by: larry | July 6, 2006 7:29 PM | Report abuse

You are absolutely right, Mike. The only way we will ever have cleans elections is with public financing. As long as private individuals and corporations are allowed to finance elections, our 'representatives' will be owned by them -- and who are they going to actually represent?

Posted by: Drindl | July 6, 2006 5:40 PM | Report abuse

When I see this list of names, and do a little basic internet research ion the individuals named, I come to the conclusion that we need a Scaninavian style tax system. These self serving mobsters and fruitcakes are the very reason this country is in the shape it is in. If we took from them the cash they use to cause so much grief, the entire world would be better off. In the meanwhile, allowing all of these Ken Lay wannabees running around without any controls on them is about the dumbest thing I can imagine.

Posted by: Mike Brooks | July 6, 2006 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Sheila, oh come on. People fact-check here. You want to talk about slush funds? The whole national defense budget is a slush fund for republicans, and huge donors own them. Read the Vanity Fair piece that just came out yesterday about the still-unfolding Abramoff scandal and educate yourself. Read about how defense contractors provided drugs and prostitutes for republican legislators to buy their votes and contracts.

You make me sick when you talk about Democrats and big money--as if. Big money, and gilded age families with vast inherited wealth--like the Coors and Mellon Sciafes and Olins have owned the republican party for generations. Get real.

Posted by: Drindl | July 6, 2006 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Well, what a surprise! NOT, these guys have all been bought and paid for, I have an idea, let's do real campaign finance reform. Every television station will donate a total during a campaign of ten hours of air time for public debate, all campaign money must come from the general public, anyone with an affiliation to a corporation, i.e. owns, sits on it's board or lobbys for it cannot donate, the maximum amount that can be donated by a "regular person" is $1,000.00 the money must be used for advertisments, any ads that are slammers, "swiftboaters" will not be ran. Once a week for one hour the television stations will play the ads of the chosen candiates. Then the american public votes, the supreme court is not allowed to vote, or put anyone in office. Electronic voting machines will be used and every person will get a receipt. They can do it in the grocery store and ATM, then they can do it with a voting machine!
Now back to reality, the next President will be chosen by the highest bidder! Makes you long to live in lala land huh?
Sue F

Posted by: Sue Filutze | July 6, 2006 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Some big names are still missing...

Posted by: ThePolitico | July 6, 2006 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me, but didn't McCain "clean up politics" to end the BIG MONEY race for the White House? Now McCain is so hunger for money and power that he has become a typical politican.

Did you all hear about the fundraiser in DC for McCain's PAC? It was $5000 per person, so again, McCain is just bought and paid for.

If McCain raises millions and millions from all the same people he badmouthed, then he has lost any respect I ever had for him.

McCain, you have become a greedy moneygrubber.

Thanks Cillizza for exposing McCain

On the other hand, the Democrats and liberals hate the fact that President Bush obeyed fundraising restrictions, and over 1 million people donated an average of $200 in 2004. Kerry raised money and his big wig buddies like George Soros tried to set up slush funds for his liberal buddies to assist Kerry with his president race.

Posted by: Sheila Dickens | July 6, 2006 3:19 PM | Report abuse

i think there should be a posting on the nj budget standoff. corzine is getting some national attention including whispers of him running for pres.

this also should affect the kean and menendez race. the fix should be on this.

Posted by: sam | July 6, 2006 3:16 PM | Report abuse

What's impressive is how many Pioneers are now convicts -- Jack Abramoff, Thomas Noe (he plead guilty for illegally funnelling money into the Bush campaign), James Tobin, and Kenneth Lay.

Brent Wilkes, Larry Householder, and Tom Whatman are likely next.

Posted by: Brad Johnson | July 6, 2006 2:59 PM | Report abuse

$100 million to buy the presidency? i think the man who wrote about governance "for the people by the people" is rolling over in his grave..or maybe just change "by" to BUY.......

Posted by: TheIrishCurse | July 6, 2006 2:47 PM | Report abuse


The attention The Fix pays to campaign war chests has made it startingly clear not only how important money is to politics but how prevalent it is in enormous quantities. Imagine if just for one campaign we dedicated the money we would spend coercing votes to cancer research or humanitarian aid or some other worthier cause. I would vote for any candidate who chose to do that with his or her money.

Posted by: peter | July 6, 2006 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Take a look, folks. These are the people who actually run this country. These are the people who own our Congress and our president, who write our laws, who determine our foreign and domestic 'policy'. Lobbyists, oil company and financial executives.

Sold, American. This is our once-noble country, on the auction block like a tramp, sold to the highest bidder.

Read it and weep.

Posted by: Drindl | July 6, 2006 1:27 PM | Report abuse

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