We didn't expect it to be easy to hand the Mitt Romney campaign a thick stack of paper bearing the signatures of thousands of people asking the candidate to be more transparent. And it wasn't.
More than 23,000 people have signed the petition that theCenter for Responsive Politicsand a coalition of other pro-transparency groups (including Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation and others) posted asking that Romney disclose the names of his bundlers -- those individuals who have committed to gathering large sums for the GOP nominee's campaign. (At right: Center for Responsive Politics Executive Director Sheila Krumholz holding a copy of the petition, while being interviewed by ABC News reporter Brian Ross, dockside in Tampa,as a party for Romney bundlers was in full swing on a nearby yacht.)
Every major-party presidential nominee for the last 12 years has disclosed those names -- and Romney himself did so during his 2008 run for the presidency. These are individuals who have a lot to gain if their candidate takes office. In many administrations,including President Barack Obama's, they have been named ambassadors to countries like France and Austria, for example, and their ability to score invitations to the White House or face time with the commander-in-chief far outstrips the average voter's.
Obama has been giving out the names of his bundlers since early in the campaign, though his campaign lists the amount each bundler has committed to only in broad ranges. But Romney has revealed only the names of those bundlers who are registered lobbyists -- information that must be disclosed by law. So far, there are 34 and they have raised a combined $2.7 million for the Romney campaign.
When we and our coalition partnersfirst wrote to Romney's campaign in March asking for the bundlers' names, we received no response, despite repeated emails to Andrea Saul, the campaign's press secretary. That prompted us to post the petition asking viewers to sign on to the request that Romney follow the precedent set by previous nominees.
In Tampa, we printed out the names of those who responded, then asked the campaign where we might deliver them. Romney's press secretary Andrea Saul again didn't respond to our emails. Finally, CRP Executive Director Sheila Krumholz walked over to the Marriott, which was serving as Romney Central, and delivered it into the hands of a hotel staff member, who said he would see that Saul got it. (Pictured left: Romney bundlers Darlene Jordan, Drew Johnson and Spencer Zwick, identified by OpenSecrets.org staff during a party for top fundraisers in Tampa Bay, Florida.)
We also emailed her the signatures.
At this point it has been nearly six months since we first asked the Romney campaign to disclose the identities of its bundlers. We fear that with each day that passes, it is less likely that the campaign will do so. And if the public doesn't demand it, it certainly won't happen. If Romney wins the election, voters will soon see who is being rewarded without having had the benefit of knowing these names before going to the polls.
Please join us in calling for the release of the names of Romney's bundlers. We will continue to gather your signatures on the petition and deliver them to the Romney campaign. Other transparency groups that have signed on to the petition include Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation, Common Cause, U.S. PIRG, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters and the Campaign Legal Center.