Mitt Romney broke with recent precedent by not releasing a list of his top fundraisers, or “bundlers,” but a new investigative report shines a light on a niche industry that’s especially active in backing his campaign.
As Romney refuses to disclose his top supporters, USA Today has stitched together its own list of Romney’s bundlers based on FEC data and media reports. One group that emerged: supplement companies, which are struggling to stave off regulation for pills and diet products that have so far evaded FDA scrutiny. Top executives at such companies have donated over $4.5 million to Romney’s campaign or to Restore Our Future, a supporting PAC, and have hosted big-dollar fundraisers to back his campaign.
Romney’s campaign told the paper that “People who support Mitt Romney do so because they support his pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda for the country,” its standard response to donor stories.
Romney has attacked Obama in recent days for appointing some of his bundlers from 2008 to administration positions. But were Romney to win, there would be no way to evaluate whether he was engaging in the same behavior given that he has not released his own fundraisers’ names. Republicans in Congress are also blocking legislation that would unveil the biggest donors to anonymous groups backing his campaign. For example, if say, Romney’s new FDA appointees were supplement industry bundlers, it would be difficult to impossible to tell the extent of their involvement in his campaign without intense investigative reporting.
And that’s just one interest group. According to USA Today, 25 percent of Romney’s bundlers they’ve identified work in the finance industry, an area where both President Obama and Romney identify regulations as critical to the economy.
Obama finances his campaign with plenty of similar big-money donors, and there’s no reason his backers shouldn’t be held to the same scrutiny. But he’s made that scrutiny much, much easier by revealing their names and has repeatedly backed legislation that would unveil supporters of outside groups as well. Romney has not made clear whether there are any new enforceable ethics standards he would support to hold him accountable for the same behavior he publicly decries.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.