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Elite fundraisers bring in more than $180 million for Obama

Gwen Stefani, Madeleine Albright among top Obama fundraisers

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This Sept. 21, 2012 photo released by Clear Channel shows Gwen Stefani of No Doubt performing at the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.

Clear Channel, Andrew Swartz/AP

President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign added 120 new fundraising “bundlers” during the third quarter who have brought in at least $17.5 million, including a former secretary of state and a platinum blonde pop star who has sold more than 40 million albums.

According to a newly released list from the Obama campaign, a total of 758 bundlers have raised at least $180 million for the president’s re-election efforts, including scores of well-connected individuals from California, New York and Obama’s home state of Illinois.

Notable additions to the list include Madeleine Albright, who served as secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton and has raised at least $200,000; pop singer Gwen Stefani, who raised at least $500,000; fashion designer Tom Ford, who has raised at least $500,000; and Warner Brothers CEO and Chairman Barry Meyer and his wife Wendy, who raised at least $500,000.

Other new bundlers include former U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen of Wisconsin, who raised at least $200,000; Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy, who raised at least $200,000; and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, who raised at least $100,000 and spoke at the Democratic National Convention last month.

These funds have benefited not only the Obama campaign but also the “Obama Victory Fund” — a joint fundraising organization that funnels cash to his campaign, the Democratic National Committee and party entities in several battleground states.

Individuals may donate up to $75,800 to the Obama Victory Fund. The first $5,000 is directed to the Obama campaign while the next $30,800 goes to the DNC. The remaining funds are split between other participating party committees.

Because the Obama campaign voluntarily only discloses broad ranges of how much money its bundlers have collected, it’s impossible to precisely determine how much these elite fundraisers have gathered.

The total sum could be millions more, as the top category given is simply “more than $500,000.” Still, it is possible to determine that these 758 bundlers are responsible for at least 20 percent — or roughly $1 out of every $5 — that Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee have raised.

The Obama campaign itself has also benefited from a record level of small-dollar donors.

According to a recent study by the Campaign Finance Institute, individuals who donated $1,000 or more accounted for only 32 percent of the money Obama’s campaign committee raised through the end of August. That’s down from about 43 percent in 2008.

Donors giving $1,000 or more have supplied nearly two-thirds of the money raised by the campaign of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the Campaign Finance Institute found.

Bundlers are elite political fundraisers who turn to relatives, friends and business associates to raise large sums and then deliver the funds in a “bundle” to the candidate. They are often given perks and special access — both on the campaign trail and once politicians are elected.

Many of Obama’s bundlers from his 2008 presidential run were awarded plumb ambassadorships or received other appointments, government contracts and stimulus funds.

According to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity, bundlers in 39 states have been actively raising funds for Obama, as well as residents of Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and several foreign countries.

U.S. citizens living abroad are allowed to donate to campaigns — as well as vote — and Obama and the DNC have received at least $3.75 million from bundlers in the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland and China.

One-hundred-fifty-five bundlers from California have raised at least $42 million for Obama’s re-election efforts, more than residents of any other state. New Yorkers rank second, with 98 bundlers raising at least $24 million. And residents of Illinois rank third, with 59 bundlers raising at least $15 million.

Unlike Obama, Romney has not voluntarily released the names of his bundlers — though he plans to list them in a commemorative book after the election, according to documents obtained by Politico.

Romney has reported 63 lobbyists who have bundled more than $14 million for his election efforts, as he is required to do by law. Records indicate that Obama does not have any registered federal lobbyists among his bundlers.

Andrea Fuller and Aaron Mehta contributed to this report.