Bush has a new top career patron

MBNA surpasses Enron as the president's top lifetime contributor

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 Updated:

A small number of donations by employees of the credit card giant MBNA Corp. last month was enough to unseat Enron as President George W. Bush's top career donor.

The Delaware-based company has given Bush $605,041 over his career, while Enron ($602,625) slipped to second, according to a recent supplement to "The Buying of the President 2004," a book by the Center for Public Integrity detailing the financial interests behind each presidential candidate.

The Center's study found that investment companies continue to make staggering donations to Bush, driven by so-called bundlers. Nine of Bush's largest ten donors during October 2003 through January 2004 were financial services companies. All of Bush's ten largest donors from October through January are linked to bundlers who have pledged to donate $100,000 to $250,000 as part of the president's Pioneer and Ranger Programs.

Officials Investigated about Enron Scandal Who Gave to Bush
IndividualsFormer PositionStatusDonations
Kenneth Lay*Chief executive officerIndicted$139,500
Jeffrey K. Skillingchief executivePleaded not guilty$6,000
Kevin HannonAssistant treasurerNegotiating plea$3,000
Joe HirkoTreasurerPleaded guilty$1,000
Kenneth RiceFinance executivePleaded guilty$1,000
Richard Causeychief accounting officerPleaded guilty$1,000
Ben F. Glisan Jr.Finance executiveIndicted$500
Andrew S. FastowAccountantIndicted$200
* Lay's figures include donations from his family.

The change in the top donor spot occurred in January, when MBNA employees donated $6,000 to the Bush campaign—enough to push the company, which calls itself the world's largest independent credit card issuer—ahead of Enron. Coming in third was Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. ($585,754). PricewaterhouseCoopers, which contributed $214,000 during the last four disclosed months, came in fourth, with a total of $576,698. Rounding out Bush's top five career patrons was UBS AG Inc. ($490,800).

In its 2003 filings with the Senate Office of Public Records, the credit card firm disclosed that it lobbied Congress, the Bush administration and the Treasury Department on a host of issues, including provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act on banking records, amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and tax issues. The firm reported spending a total of $5.2 million on lobbying that year.

Recent Fundraising Trends
 BushKerry
Fourth Quarter$48,136,800$5,239,863
January Filing$13,096,545$7,662,801
Total Raised$146,445,063$32,946,297
Cash on Hand$105,553,631$2,294,339
Amount Spent$40,891,432$30,651,958
Recent Daily Average Raised$497,832$104,899

The Center first identified Enron as Bush's top career patron four years ago in "The Buying of the President 2000."

A more recent Center study about the Enron scandal found that eight of the company's employees who have been indicted by the federal government have personally donated to the various Bush campaigns—including former chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling.

Bush's largest donor from Enron remains longtime friend and former chief executive officer Kenneth Lay. He and his family have given the president $139,500 over the years, which accounts for almost a quarter of Enron's contributions to Bush. Lay is under investigation but "is the only top executive in the major corporate scandals who has not been indicted," according to the Wall Street Journal.

So far the president's campaign has raised $146.4 million and spent $40.8 million. During the last four months Bush is raising an average of $497,832 a day.

Top Ten Donors to Bush During the Last Four Months and Their Connections to His Bundlers
AmountOrganizationPioneersRangers
$214,000Pricewaterhouse Coopers Partner Richard R. Kilgus
$126,300Deloitte & Touche LLPPartner Paul Maynard 
$101,750MBNA Corp. CEO Charles M. Cawley and Senior Executive Vice Chair Lance Loring Weaver
$85,655Ernst & Young LLPManaging Director of Govt Relations Les Brorsen 
$80,254Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. CEO E. Stanley O'Neal
$78,947Southern Co. Executive Vice President Dwight H. Evans
$76,000Goldman Sachs GroupCEO Henry M. Paulson Jr.
and Managing Partner George H. Walker IV
Limited Partner Peter R. Coneway
$71,350UBS AG Inc. UBS Wealth Management USA CEO Joseph J. Grano
$64,325Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. Managing Director William H. Strong
$59,850United Services Automobile Association GroupCEO Robert G. Davis 
List is based on contributions to Bush-Cheney '04 Inc. and Bush-Cheney '04 Compliance Committee Inc. during last four reported months through Jan. 31, 2004. The Pioneers and Rangers listed are based on names published by Texans for Public Justice.

Meanwhile, Democratic frontrunner Sen. John Kerry of Mass. raised a total of $32.9 million and spent $30.6 million. He raised an average of $104,899 a day for the last four months.

Being criticized for taking money from lobbying firms did not stop the Kerry campaign from accepting donations from such groups in January. In fact, the Center found, four of Kerry's top five donors during January were lobbying firms: Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi ($28,500); Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson ($10,500); Greenberg Traurig ($10,000); and Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld ($9,500). Rounding out the list was the non-lobbying law firm, Kreindler & Kreindler ($19,500).

The contributions from Robins, Kaplan were large enough to move the group into Kerry's top 10 list of career patrons for the first time. The firm, which lobbies on some insurance-related legislation, has given Kerry more than $135,000 throughout his career.

Both Top 10 Career Patron lists for Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Rev. Al Sharpton remained unchanged with only a total of $1,000 in new contributions between both Top 10 lists.