Trump’s secret bundler list

The GOP nominee bucks precedent by not releasing the names of his biggest fundraisers.

Donald Trump photographed during an interview with The Associated Press on May 10 in his office at Trump Tower in New York, the week he held his first presidential fundraisers. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File
Donald Trump photographed during an interview with The Associated Press on May 10 in his office at Trump Tower in New York, the week he held his first presidential fundraisers. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

Donald Trump’s campaign has set a historic standard for lack of transparency. In addition to refusing to release his tax returns, complete medical records, or any evidence of his charitable giving, he has also declined to make public the names of any “bundlers” — supporters who collect bundles of checks to give to the campaign.

But by examining the host committee lists for his high-dollar fundraising events, it is possible to get an idea of who those top Trump bundlers might be.

It takes a lot of money to run for president. While some candidates, famously Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump, have raised large amounts of campaign cash in $10 and $15-dollar increments on their way to hundred-million-dollar totals, campaigns still rely on bundlers to do the heavy lifting. An individual can only contribute $2,700 directly to a candidate for each election.

The Center for Responsive Politics calls bundlers “people with friends in high places who, after bumping against personal contribution limits, turn to those friends, associates, and, well, anyone who’s willing to give, and deliver the checks to the candidate.” The bundlers are often rewarded with access and appointments.

The major party nominees have historically revealed the names of their bundlers as a serious gesture of transparency. The precedent started with the 2000 campaign when then-Gov. George W. Bush released the list of his “Pioneers” who raised $100,000 or more for him. Subsequent nominees and several other primary candidates followed suit. In 2007, Congress passed legislation requiring campaigns to release the names of registered federal lobbyists who raised more than $16,000 for them, but major candidates still publicly identified their other bundlers as well.

On her campaign website, Hillary Clinton keeps an up-to-date list of “Hillblazers,” theindividuals who have contributed and/or raised $100,000 or more” for the campaign or associated committees and funds. President Obama released his bundlers in 2008 and 2012, as did Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) when he ran for president.

The precedent was broken by 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, who only released the names of the registered lobbyists he was required to under the 2007 law. Other Republican candidates have followed his lead. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said he would release the names of his bundlers in the 2016 GOP primary race, yet he demurred and evidently reversed course (though the campaign confirmed some names to press). Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) campaign also did not release the names of his bundlers. Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), however, did.

Donald Trump has not released the names of any of his bundlers — even those who would be lobbyists. So one of three things is true: he has no big-money bundlers who are also lobbyists; his campaign is breaking the law by failing to disclose his bundlers who are lobbyists, or he is taking advantage of a loophole in the law, where lobbyists can divide up the amount raised among a larger pool of people no matter who did the work, technically keeping each one below the current disclosure threshold of $17,600.

For comparison, the Clinton campaign has not only voluntarily released the names of all their bundlers, but has also filed regular reports with the Federal Election Commission disclosing the dozens of registered lobbyists who have bundled for the campaign.

Even though Trump is not disclosing bundlers, a ThinkProgress analysis of fundraising host committee data for the Trump campaign (courtesy of Political Party Time, a website operated by the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation) found several Trump fundraiser co-hosts who also were identified as bundlers to recent Republican presidential nominees

This is an imperfect system: the list of Romney bundlers, while more comprehensive than what is legally required, is certainly incomplete — as is the list of Trump’s fundraising events. Yet the likely bundlers that this method revealed include more than just the big names that have been widely reported to be part of Trump’s fundraising circle (Sheldon Adelson, Darwin Deason, Peter Thiel, etc). Many are former and current lobbyists, giants of the private investment world, and real estate magnates. Some are publicly supportive of Trump, donating the legal maximum to his campaign, contributing sometimes much more to the RNC’s national efforts, and even serving as vice chairs or state chairs of his fundraising teams. Others have given little to none of their own money to Trump’s campaign, even after being major donors to Trump’s primary campaign rivals.

It would be much more transparent and accurate if the campaign followed precedent and released its bundlers. Much like the candidate’s refusal to release any of his tax returns (bucking an even longer precedent) has made reporting on his personal financial history incomplete and scattershot, reporting on how Trump raises money from big donors is similarly handicapped and by necessity incomplete.

The list is incomplete, but still a window into the likely key players in Trump’s big-dollar fundraising efforts. There are likely other Trump bundlers and it is quite possible that some of these individuals ended up raising little or nothing for Trump. But this approach is the most accurate view we have into the influences on the candidate who bragged he was so rich he couldn’t be bought — but then largely abandoned his vows to self-fund his campaign.

The Lobbyists

Brian Ballard

In July the Republican National Committee listed Ballard as a State Victory Finance Chair for Florida. He was later featured as a host of two Trump Victory Fund Florida fundraisers. He gave $100,000 to the Trump cause, according to FEC records.

Ballard donated tens of thousands of dollars to support Floridians Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush earlier in the cycle. In 2012 he gave more than $65,000 to support Romney’s bid, and bundled at least $500,000 for John McCain in 2008.

Ballard is president of a lobbying firm based in Florida, and he is a notorious lobbyist for the sugar industry. His firm has also collected at least $580,000 from 2013 to 2015 to lobby the State of Florida, to loosen gambling restrictions on behalf of Donald Trump, according to the Washington Times.

Fred Karlinsky

In July, the RNC announced Karlinsky was a State Victory Finance Chair for Trump in Florida. Earlier this cycle, he “maxed out” (contributed the legal maximum) to Bush and Rubio. Neither Trump nor the RNC have reported receiving any donations from him this cycle, though his name did appear on a fundraising invite for a dinner with Trump in Florida.

Karlinsky is a Florida lawyer and lobbyist for the insurance industry, currently co-chair of Greenberg Traurig’s Insurance Regulatory and Transactions Practice Group. He was a co-chair of Gov. Rick Scott’s 2014 statewide campaign finance committee and raised at least $250,000 for John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008 as a bundler.

David Tamasi

Tamasi is the Washington manager for the public affairs and lobbying firm Rasky Baerlein, where his clients have included Citgo, DuPont, Hess, and the Embassy of Pakistan among others (including, in 2014, a Congolese politician). He is one of a few registered lobbyists who have maxed out or nearly maxed out to Trump, after having supported Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Rubio before turning to the Republican nominee. On July 1, the RNC listed Tamasi as the only State Victory Finance Chair for D.C.

He is listed as a host for a Trump Victory Fund reception at Bill Koch’s house on Cape Cod. According to FEC records, he contributed $10,000 to the Trump Victory Fund in June. He raised $247,034 for Romney as a bundler in 2012.

The Hill reported in August that Tamasi “plans to begin bundling money for Trump now that the fundraising framework is coming into place.” ThinkProgress was unable to find records of any fundraising events Tamasi held in D.C.

Robert Grand

Grand maxed out to Bush and Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) in 2015. He was listed as a host for a Trump Victory Fund dinner with Trump on an invitation from August. Grand also maxed out to Trump in the general this year but has not otherwise donated any money to the Victory Fund. He appeared on a fundraising invitation for the Trump Victory Fund in August. He has been very generous in most cycles, including this one, with congressional candidates and committees. He was a member of the Bush-Cheney recount team Florida after the 2000 election and, in 2012, Grand raised $1,011,120 for Romney’s bid.

Grand, an ally of Mike Pence, is a prominent lawyer at Barnes & Thornberg, a law firm and government relations practice in Indiana. Although according to federal lobbying disclosure records he has not been a federal lobbyist since the end of 2015, he represented a wide array of Indiana localities and a large mall developing company until that time. When it looked like Mitt Romney had won the Iowa caucuses in 2012, the New York Times included Grand in a group of “happy lobbyists” who had supported him.

Sylvester Lukis

Lukis is a lawyer specializing in intergovernmental affairs, and is also a managing partner at Ballard’s lobbying firm (which once represented Trump). The Trump campaign has not reported any donations from Lukis, but he did appear on a fundraising invitation for the Trump Victory Fund in July. He maxed out to both Rubio and Bush during the primary and bundled at least $50,000 for John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008. Lukis and his wife, Vicki Lopez Lukis, were the subjects of a multi-part series in the Miami New Times in which he was toasted “the next king of Miami.” Federal prosecutors alleged that Lopez had an affair with Lukis and did his bidding when she served on the Lee County Commission — she served part of a federal prison sentence for mail fraud, which was commuted by President Clinton at the end of his term.

The Private Investors

Elliott Broidy

Earlier this year, the RNC listed Broidy as one of six vice chairs for the Trump Victory Fund. He hosted a fundraiser for the Trump Victory Fund in August, but has not been identified by the Trump campaign or RNC as a donor this cycle. In April, he hosted a fundraiser for Cruz’s presidential campaign. Broidy maxed out to Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) presidential bid in 2015, and in 2016 he contributed $2,700 each to two congressional candidates.

Broidy is a venture capitalist who got into hot water in 2009 when he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of rewarding official misconduct. He avoided prison time by cooperating with officials to help put then-New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi (D) behind bars for accepting Broidy’s bribes which allowed Broidy’s firm to land a lucrative state pension contract. As part of the deal, Broidy had to pay back $18 million in management fees.

Broidy raised at least $500,000 for John McCain in 2008. In recent years, he has stepped into the film industry, producing films such as Sugar and Snake & Mongoose.

Lewis Eisenberg

Eisenberg is a major GOP fundraiser, having worked at Goldman Sachs for over two decades before co-founding the private equity firm Granite Capital International. Conservatives have been wary of his more socially liberal views, especially when he took the reins of the RNC’s fundraising efforts. He was listed as a 2012 Romney bundler by the Center for Responsive Politics, and raised at least $500,000 for McCain in 2008.

After maxing out to the presidential campaigns of Rubio and Graham, Eisenberg got on board the Trump bandwagon. He was announced as finance chair of the Trump Victory Fund earlier this year, and has hosted at least two dinners and receptions for him. He gave $10,800 to the Trump Victory Fund (oddly late, according to some observers) and tens of thousands more to the RNC this cycle.

George Glass

Glass was a vice chairman and president at technology investment bank Pacific Crest Securities, which recently merged with Key Bank’s KeyCorp. Since then he has listed himself as self-employed or retired on FEC disclosures and has also been listed as a partner at MMG Development, a boutique real estate firm.

This cycle, he donated $33,400 to the RNC, he maxed first to Bush and then to Trump, and he hosted a fundraiser for the Trump Victory Fund in August.

Glass raised at least $250,000 for McCain’s 2008 campaign.

Bill Hagerty

In July, the RNC named Hagerty the State Victory Finance Chair for Tennessee. Hagerty attended a September fundraiser for Trump featuring Donald Trump Jr. in Tennessee.

“I felt that Don Jr.’s visit was very successful,” Hagerty told the Tennesseean. “His message was well received. And I’ve enjoyed the time that I’ve spent with Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric. They represent their father very well.”

He maxed out to Trump on September 1, through a donation to the Trump Victory Fund, and to the RNC in 2015 and 2016 before the GOP primaries began. He also maxed out to Bush and Rubio in the primary race.

He raised at least $250,000 for John McCain’s 2008 presidential run, founded his own private equity investment firm, and served in Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s (R) cabinet. In 2012, he was the director of presidential appointments for Mitt Romney’s presidential transition team, and he is serving on Trump’s transition team as well.

Woody Johnson

Robert Wood “Woody” Johnson IV, owner of the New York Jets and chairman of a private investment firm in New York City, was finance chairman for Jeb Bush’s campaign until it fizzled out and gave more than half a million dollars to Bush’s super PAC. He also maxed out to Graham.

After a private meeting in May, he reportedly endorsed Trump. The RNC then announced Johnson was both a Trump Victory Vice Chair nationwide and a State Victory Finance Chair in New York.

Johnson himself contributed $100,000 to the Victory Fund in late June. A few weeks later, Johnson hosted a fundraising event at his East Hampton estate, with tickets going for $10,000 and $25,000 apiece — one of at least six fundraising events for Trump he co-hosted.

In 2006, Johnson was one of four billionaires who got in trouble for utilizing a tax shelter scheme (he reportedly reached a settlement in 2003 and paid 100 percent of the tax due plus interest).

As a bundler back in 2008, he raised at least $500,000 for McCain’s campaign and coordinated a McCain fundraiser in New York City that brought in a staggering $7 million.

Darlene and Jerry Jordan

Jerry Jordan founded his own investment company, Hellman Jordan, in 1978. Darlene has been an assistant attorney general in Massachusetts, a prolific fundraiser in Florida, and she also serves on numerous boards, including a recent appointment to the Florida State University Board of Governors courtesy of Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL). In July, the RNC announced Darlene was a State Victory Finance Chair in Florida. Neither Trump nor the RNC have reported any donations from the Jordans, but each maxed out to Rubio this cycle — as well as additional thousands to GOP congressional candidates. They were event chairs of the August Trump fundraiser at Bill Koch’s house in Massachusetts.

In 2012, they were identified by the Center for Responsive Politics as Romney bundlers,with each donating $200,000 to Romney’s Restore Our Future super PAC, and together the couple have contributed over half a million dollars to all candidates and committees since 1990.

Dennis Nixon

In July, the RNC announced Nixon was a State Victory Finance Chair in Texas, and he has contributed heavily to Trump, the RNC, and many other congressional candidates. He hosted a San Antonio fundraiser for Trump in June. Nixon bundled at least $500,000 for McCain in his 2008 campaign. Nixon is a CEO of the International Bank of Commerce in Laredo, Texas, and chair of the International Bancshares Corporation.

Once customers of IBC Bank found out about Nixon’s support for Trump, some vowed to close their accounts. Trump’s famous distrust of trade deals did not dissuade Nixon from backing him strongly, even though Nixon was “instrumental” in getting NAFTA passed and has been a free trade champion for decades. Nixon has reportedly admitted some “disagreements” with Trump on trade, immigration, and the country of Mexico.

Anthony Scaramucci

In July, the RNC named Scaramucci a State Victory Finance Chair in New York. He was reportedly a co-host for two Trump Victory Fund events and he gave $100,000 to the Trump Victory Fund in June. The New York Times reported that he “has been instrumental in introducing Mr. Trump to the hedge fund and private equity world.” He founded the investment firm Skybridge Capital and hosts the Fox Business Channel show Wall Street Week.

He was one of the first Wall Street bundlers to sign on with Trump, telling the Washington Post in May: “I am on board and will support and raise money for him. I will do whatever I can to support our Republican nominee.”

This cycle he also gave to Walker and Bush, serving in senior finance positions with both campaigns until they dropped out. In 2012, Scaramucci was identified by the Center for Responsive Politics as a Romney bundler.

Wilbur Ross

Ross is a billionaire investor who has made a career of leveraged buyouts and founding companies in the coal, steel, and textile industries, among others. In July, the RNC announced he was a State Victory Finance Chair in both Florida and New York. Ross is an economic adviser to the Trump campaign, has maxed out to Trump and reportedly hosted a fundraiser in the Hamptons for him this year. He was identified by the Center for Responsive Politics as a bundler for Mitt Romney in 2012, and has contributed almost half a million dollars to candidates and committees since 1990, including the legal maximum to the RNC this cycle.

The Real Estate Magnates

Itchko Ezratti

This cycle, Ezratti donated more than $25,000 to Jeb Bush’s super PAC. In July, he was listed as a host of a Trump Victory Fund reception in Miami. Neither the RNC nor Trump have reported any donations from him this year. In 2008, Ezratti raised at least $100,000 for McCain.

He is president of GL Homes of Florida, which is one of the largest homebuilders in the country.

Peter Kalikow

Kalikow is a real estate developer, onetime owner of the New York Post, and past chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority and former commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

In July, the RNC announced he was a State Victory Finance Chair in New York. Kalikow has contributed $449,000 to the Trump Victory Fund. He co-hosted a fundraiser in the Hamptons for Trump in August, and has been very generous with party committees and candidates.

He raised at least $50,00 for McCain in 2008 . In 2012, he supported businessman Herman Cain (R), even providing what was reportedly the sole contribution of $50,000 to the presidential candidate’s super PAC, Cain Connections. This cycle, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) and raised money for him, but quickly got behind Trump in May as his fellow New York real estate developer became the de facto nominee.

He held a fundraiser for Great America PAC, a pro-Trump super PAC, though the group has not reported any personal contributions from him. He told Newsday that he and Trump had been friends for 40 years, and “wouldn’t that be cool if he became president?”

Larry Mizel

Mizel is chairman and CEO of MDC Holdings, a homebuilding company he founded, and is also the chairman of the Simon Wisenthal Center, dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism. Colorado political blogs questioned Mizel’s support for Trump given Trump’s controversial comments about Jewish stereotypes and Mizel’s position leading the Center. He is a huge fundraiser for the GOP, personally contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to party committees and candidates, including maxing out to Trump in September of 2015 (after co-hosting an event for Graham that March). In September of 2016 he co-chaired a Denver fundraiser for the GOP nominee.

The former president of Mizel’s company, MDC Holdings, was indicted for laundering campaign contributions in the 1990s but was acquitted (two subsidiary companies pleaded guilty to illegally reimbursing contributions). Local Colorado bloggers also suspect that Mizel owns the Colorado Statesman, though this has not been confirmed. He bundled at least $50,000 for McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Mel Sembler

The former RNC finance chairman Sembler gave more than $175,000 to Bush’s Right to Rise super PAC last year (while serving on its board), and $100,000 to American Crossroads. He also maxed out to Cruzo. In February, after Bush dropped out, Sembler confessed, “I don’t understand our country anymore.” Facing an increasing likelihood of a Trump nomination, he said, “I kept telling myself that won’t happen, that can’t happen…. I now fear it may happen.”

Mel Sembler, left, leaves the Four Seasons hotel after a GOP fundraiser, Thursday, June 9, 2016, in New York. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Mel Sembler, left, leaves the Four Seasons hotel after a GOP fundraiser, Thursday, June 9, 2016, in New York. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Earlier this year, the RNC announced he was both a Trump Victory Vice Chair nationwide, and a State Victory Finance Chair in Florida. He co-hosted multiple Trump Victory Fund event between July and October. He donated $2,700 to the Trump campaign and $22,300 to the RNC in July and was identified by the Center for Responsive Politics as a 2012 Romney bundler.

The banker and real estate developer is also the former ambassador to Italy, Australia, and Nauru. Earlier this year, he said he and his wife Betty planned to raise $10 million to kill Florida’s medical marijuana ballot measure. The two founded the Drug Free America Foundation, Inc.

Ray Washburne

Washburne is a real estate investor in Dallas: CEO of Charter Holdings Group. In May of 2016, the RNC announced him as a vice chair of the Trump Victory Fund. This cycle he gave $65,000 to the RNC and he is listed as a host for five receptions raising money for the Trump Victory Fund after having backed Christie in the primary. He told the Dallas Morning News that reluctant donors are coming on board, but Washburne’s enthusiasm for Trump was not exactly overflowing.

“This is it. If you’re wearing the uniform, there’s only one team to be on at this point,” he said. Neither the Trump campaign nor any outside groups supporting him have reported receiving any donations from Washburne. The last time he donated to the RNC was apparently in December of 2015, though in 2016 has contributed several thousand dollars to Republican congressional candidates. He was identified by the Center for Responsive Politics as a 2012 Romney bundler and maxed out to that campaign.

One of Washburne’s restaurants, Mi Cocina, is a Dallas institution, and the Tex-Mex joint faced much controversy after Washburne talked to the Dallas Morning News about raising money for Trump. Washburne owns a fancy mall in Dallas, the Highland Park Village, as well as the restaurant group that includes Mi Cocina and Taco Diner.

Ronald Weiser

Weiser founded the real estate investment firm McKinley Associates in the 60s and has been active in Republican Party fundraising for decades. He was the chair of the Michigan GOP in 1999 and served as George W. Bush’s Ambassador to the Slovak Republic from 2001 to 2005. He was a co-chair of McCain’s presidential bid in 2007–2008 and was the national finance chairman of the RNC in 2011 to 2013.

In May, the RNC announced him as a vice chair of the Trump Victory Fund, and he was invited to a “morning strategy session and luncheon” in New York with Trump in June. In addition to maxing out to Rubio in the primaries, he has hundreds of thousands to the RNC this cycle, thousands more to other GOP committees and candidates, and he maxed out to Trump. He bundled at least $500,000 for McCain and was identified by the Center for Responsive Politics as a bundler to Romney as well.

McKinley Associates invests in and manages apartment complexes and residential developments, mostly in Florida and Michigan, according to its website. He is currently running for a seat on the University of Michigan Board of Regents.

The Others

Ron Gidwitz

Gidwitz is a major GOP fundraiser and donor, part of a founding family of Chicago. In 1996, he sold his cosmetics company to Unilever for $915 million. He contributed more than $85,000 to Bush’s Right to Rise super PAC, and maxed out to the campaign and has given tens of thousands to the RNC this cycle. In July, the RNC announced he was a State Victory Finance Chair in Illinois. He has maxed out to Trump, and reportedly hosted a fundraiser in September featuring Ivanka Trump. Gidwitz raised at least $100,000 for McCain’s in 2008.

Harold Hamm

Hamm has maxed out to the Trump campaign, gave tens of thousands to the RNC, and was reportedly an event chair for a September Trump fundraiser in Oklahoma.

Hamm is the chief executive of Continental Resources, an oil and gas company which has benefited from the fracking boom. Rumors leaked earlier this year that Trump was considering Hamm to be his pick for energy secretary.

He was identified by the Center for Responsive Politics as a bundler to Romney and gave nearly $1 million to a pro-Romney super PAC.

ThinkProgress reached out to each person on this list to ask how much they had raised for Trump and why, but as of publication time none had responded to the questions.

Josh Israel and Aysha Khan contributed fact-checking and research help to this story.

This story has been updated to include additional information about George Glass’s profession.