Report: Top Obama Bundlers Bag Millions in Taxpayer Money

Report: Top Obama Bundlers Bag Millions in Taxpayer Money

An investigation by the Government Accountability Institute found that more than half of the most politically active 50 campaign bundlers for President Obama were either appointed to a presidential council, committee, board, or other White House post. Many bundlers’ businesses or relatives’ businesses also received millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded federal contracts, grants, loans, or other crony perks.

In all, the top 50 bundlers received three council appointments, one ambassadorship, two committee appointments, and a whopping 20 State Dinner invitations. Two bundlers were also placed on a presidential board, and another two were picked for other White House posts. 

Bundling campaign donations for Mr. Obama can produce a lucrative return on “investment” in the form of crony deals. For example, one of the president’s biggest bundlers, Penny Pritzker, is the national co-chair of Obama for America 2012 and was a member of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Mrs. Pritzker has bundled at least $904,957 for Mr. Obama. A former board member of the Marmon Group, the Pritzker family owns as much as 40% of Marmon while Berkshire Hathaway owns the rest. Marmon and Berkshire own IMPulse, a transit-manufacturing firm, located in Mount Olive, North Carolina. IMPulse received or directed numerous construction projects that received millions in taxpayer-funded stimulus money. Among others, those projects include:

  • A $485.8 million contract that was awarded for the extension of the Metro Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa
  • A San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) infrastructure project worth $67 million in ARRA funds
  • The Portland streetcar eastside loop which received $75 million in funds 

The value of the projects that IMPulse Manufacturing received total nearly $1 billion in American Recovery Reinvestment Act funding.

In 2010 testimony before the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure on the “Recovery Act: Progress Report for Highway, Transit, and Wastewater Infrastructure Formula Investments,” Jeffery Wharton, president of IMPulse Manufacturing, LLC explained:

IMPulse is a Marmon Group / Berkshire Hathaway Company. We are a member of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and I serve on the APTA Board of Directors, but my testimony today is on behalf of my company.   

I am pleased to report that IMPulse’s new project business has grown 35% in 2009 and expected to grow at least another 10% to 15% in 2010.I do not believe my business would have survived without the investment in public transportation by way of the ARRA stimulus funding. In 2009, ARRA partially funded projects accounted for 46% of my total sales. In 2010, I anticipate the ARRA type funded projects will account for 62% of my total sales.

What’s more, Nicholas Pritzker is chairman of the board and senior development adviser of the Pritzker family-owned Hyatt Hotels Corp. He invested an unspecified amount in Tesla Motors, the electric car company that received a $465 million interest-bearing loan from the DOE. 

Another Obama bundler who has seemingly gained from his presidential fundraising is Richard Richman, chairman of the Richman Group. In September 2010, the Richmans held a $30,000 a plate fundraising dinner for Obama in their 20-acre estate in Greenwich, Connecticut. They also donated $50,000 to Obama’s inaugural. In total, the Richmans have bundled $1,073,750 for Mr. Obama.

And what did they get in return for their fundraising efforts? Richman Group’s Balton-Douglass Park–a $100 million mixed use, mixed income development which will hold 226 apartments in central Harlem–received a $21 million subsidy through the stimulus.

Ellen Richman is listed five times as a visitor in the White House visitors database, and Richard Richman is listed four times since December 2009. They also attended the March 14, 2012 State Dinner.

Mark Gallogly also came up a big winner in the Obama bundler-a-thon. In total, Mr. Gallogly has bundled $903,834 for Mr. Obama. Gallogly serves on the board of Dana Holdings Corp., a manufacturer of drivetrains and other industrial parts. Until earlier this year, Dana Holdings was heavily involved in a joint venture with Eaton Corp., another manufacturer who received numerous stimulus grants, on a line of products known as Roadranger. Roadranger received $3.1 million in stimulus funds for a line of plug in vehicles. Additionally, Dana Holdings supplies parts for Tesla Motors, which received a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy. 

Gallogly was appointed to the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board and has visited the White House 39 times.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Institute says it will release its findings for Mitt Romney’s bundlers next week. The organization says the Romney campaign’s refusal to release the names and amounts of all its bundlers made analyzing possible crony connections more difficult. 

“If Romney wants the transparency and anti-cronyism themes to catch fire,” writes Government Accountability Institute President Peter Schweizer, “he needs to do the right thing and release the names of his bundlers.” 

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