When U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, needed help fortifying his campaign war chest against a pesky and potentially dangerous tea party challenger, a small army of lobbyists volunteered.
Government influencers representing Goldman Sachs, Koch Industries and Lockheed Martin ranked among the “bundlers” who helped fill Cornyn’s coffers with nearly $1.1 million during 2013 and early 2014 — about $1 out of every $9 Cornyn raised — according to a Center for Public Integrity review of federal campaign finance filings.
No other politician raised a larger sum from lobbyist-bundlers. And only Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who collected about $357,000 during the same period, raised a similar percentage from K Street-connected fundraisers, according to the analysis.
Cornyn ultimately bulldozed Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, and several lesser-known challengers in a March 4 intra-party battle.
But despite his stature as the GOP’s second-highest ranking senator, Cornyn’s electoral success wasn’t initially guaranteed.
A June 2013 poll sponsored by the University of Texas and Texas Tribune, for example, found that only 54 percent of Republicans viewed Cornyn favorably. In October 2013, Roll Call named him among the seven GOP senators “most vulnerable to a primary.” And after a November 2013 poll, Public Policy Polling warned that Cornyn was in “grave danger of losing a primary next year if a serious campaign is run against him.”
Lobbyists’ previously unreported role in Cornyn’s campaign helped the incumbent avoid, in his own words, a “fair fight.”
Big bundles from Koch Industries, Goldman Sachs
Elite political fundraisers credited by campaigns for raising money from relatives, friends or business associates are known as “bundlers.” Registered lobbyists who bundle campaign contributions above a convoluted financial threshold are required by law to be identified in reports to the Federal Election Commission. The actual donors who compose each bundle, however, need not be revealed.
Critics contend that bundlers have undue influence over politicians by gaining access through fundraising activity.
In 2007, Congress itself required lobbyist-bundlers to disclose their activity following the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal. Nevertheless, many political leaders in both parties have long benefited from torrents of campaign cash steered their way by lobbyists.
None have received more assistance this election cycle than Cornyn.
Between January 2013, and March 2014, the Cornyn campaign disclosed 21 bundlers who collectively raised about $1.1 million.
Nearly all declined to comment or did not respond to interview requests.