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Florida bundlers help bring in big bucks for Obama

President Barack Obama's campaign last week announced that more than 1 million people had contributed to his re-election effort, a milestone that it said was well ahead of four years ago.

All told, the campaign has raised more than $90 million (not including what he has raised for the Democratic Party) and officials stress the number of grass roots, low-dollar donors, noting that the average donation is less than $60.

"No matter what our opponents do, and however many people end up becoming a part of this campaign — this first million will always be the group that put this movement in the best position possible for the fights ahead," Obama said in an e-mail to supporters.

But the Obama fundraising machine also is relying heavily on rainmakers delivering tens of hundreds or hundreds of thousands of dollars in individual campaign contributions. These are the so-called bundlers, elite fundraisers who may not personally be able to write big checks, but who can tap large networks of friends and associates to funnel multiple donations to the campaign of their choice.

Florida bundlers have raised at least $4.5 million for the Obama campaign directly and for the Democratic National Committee. Federal campaign laws allow donations up to $5,000 to the campaign and $33,500 to the national parties. Florida's more than two dozen Obama bundlers include a mix of veteran Democratic fundraisers and power brokers, and relative newcomers to the world of top-tier fundraising.

"Basically since we announced the re-election campaign in April, we've gotten the old band back together, along with some new players who helped out a little four years ago and want to do more, or new people who want to get involved," said Florida finance chairman Kirk Wagar, a lawyer in Coconut Grove.

Several of top fundraisers, including Tampa businessman Frank Sanchez, Tallahassee lawyer Allan Katz and Caren and Dick Lobo of Sarasota, are no longer raising money because they have jobs with the administration.

Newcomers have stepped up to take their place, Wagar said, with some mainly interested in specific issues, say foreign policy or health care, while others appreciate Obama's record.

"They're saying, 'I'm getting sick and tired of listening to the tea party when this president has done what he said he was going to do, and he's done a lot,' " Wagar said.

Unlike the Republican presidential contenders, who have raised more than $80 million, Obama's campaign releases the names of its top bundlers and ranges of what each brought in.

Follow the money

Search our database of local donations to presidential campaigns at links.tampabay.com.

GOP candidates

Donations from individual Floridians through the third quarter of 2011. Listed are the candidates, the total donated and the number of donations:

Mitt Romney

$2,495,705.41 2,000

Rick Perry

$781,377.89 457

Ron Paul

$439,804.74 1,740

Tim Pawlenty*

$298,328.92 202

Newt Gingrich

$223,574.94 351

Herman Cain

$204.876.57 493

Jon Huntsman

$189,377.19 168

Michele Bachmann

$137,740.25 389

Rick Santorum

$102,325 75

Gary Johnson

$17,625 22

Thad McCotter

$2501

* Pawlenty raised an additional $72,400 that was partly switched to the party's general fund and partly refunded. His filings weren't clear on where the money went.

Meet Obama's Florida rainmakers

Amount Raised: $500,000+

Mark and Nancy Gilbert of Boca Raton. Mark Gilbert, 55, is an investment banker who has been active in Jewish philanthropies. A veteran fundraiser who has hosted Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama at his Florida and Park City, Utah, homes, Gilbert joined the Obama team early in the last election after previously being a top fund-raiser for former presidential candidate Joe Lieberman and former U.S. Rep. Ron Klein of Boca Raton.

Steven Green of Miami Beach. The former CEO of Samsonite Corp., 66, had been a major fundraiser for President Bill Clinton, but his political activity subsided after Clinton appointed him ambassador to Singapore in 1998. A philanthropist whose family foundation supports assorted social and arts programs, Green has re-emerged as a major money man in this cycle. He hosted President Barack Obama at his Miami Beach home in July, when roughly 80 people paid $10,000 to hear the president.

Andrew Tobias of Miami. The 64-year-old is a best-selling financial author whose books include The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need, The Best Little Boy in the World about growing up gay, and Let's Go: The Student Guide to Europe produced when he was a Harvard student. Though he moved to Miami in the 1980s after a tax dispute with New York City, he is better known in national political circles than Florida circles. He has served as the Democratic National Committee's treasurer since 1999.

$200,000-$500,000

Michael Adler of Miami Beach. The 60-year-old real estate executive has a long track record as a top Democratic fundraiser and is especially tight with Biden, a friend of more than 30 years. In addition to assorted philanthropies, Adler has served as chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, promoting Democratic candidates to Jewish voters.

Jean-Philippe Austin of Coconut Grove. Austin, 53, and his wife, lawyer Magalie, were both 8 years old when they moved to the United States from Haiti, refugees from the "Papa Doc" Duvalier regime. A radiation oncologist, Austin hosted Obama at his home for a $38,500-per plate fundraiser in July.

Alex Heckler of Miami. Heckler, 35, is one of the young guns in Florida's exclusive circle of uber-bundlers for campaigns and a partner of Ben Pollara's. A lobbyist and consultant, Heckler was Florida finance chairman for Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008 and before that was on John Kerry's national finance team. He served as finance director of the Democratic Governors Association in the last election cycle.

Ron Klein of Boca Raton. Klein, 54, is new to the top tier of Democratic bundlers in Florida, but he has a long record of raising money. As a state senator and congressman, he was a champion fundraiser until Allen West and the Republican wave of 2010 swept him from office. For now, he's raising money for other candidates.

Andrew Korge of Coral Gables. Now 30, Korge was the youngest member of Obama's national finance team in 2008. He was born into the fundraising business as the son of Chris Korge, one of the country's most prolific Democratic fundraisers.

Chris Korge of Coral Gables. The South Florida lobbyist, attorney and developer has been raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for national Democrats, state Democrats and South Florida politicians for decades. He was one of the Clintons' top fundraisers in the country, and has been a top fundraiser for assorted national party fundraising committees.

Ben Pollara of Coral Gables. Pollara, 26, is a young Turk in fundraising circles with a Rolodex full of political contacts. Pollara was Hillary Clinton's paid Florida finance director in 2007 and 2008, helping raise more than $12 million for her. He also served as co-finance director for Alex Sink's campaigns for chief financial officer and governor, and worked for Bill Nelson's 2006 Senate campaign.

Kirk Wagar of Coconut Grove. The blunt-talking son of a Canadian ship captain jumped aboard the Obama campaign in 2007 when the vast majority of Democratic fundraisers in Florida were all about Hillary Clinton. Wagar, 42, was Obama's Florida finance chairman in 2008 and remains chairman today. A disability insurance lawyer, Wagar has long been active with trial lawyers, helped Janet Reno in her 2002 gubernatorial campaign and became one of John Kerry's top fundraisers in 2004.

$100,000-$200,000

Mitchell Berger of Parkland. The 55-year-old Broward County corporate lawyer for decades has been among the most influential money men in Florida, a constant host for Democratic candidates across the country looking to reel in South Florida campaign contributions. Berger, an ardent environmentalist, is longtime friends with Al Gore and served as one of his attorneys in Bush vs. Gore in 2000. He was a top national fundraiser for Lieberman in 2004 and John Edwards in 2008.

Stephen Bittel of Miami Beach. The 55-year-old chairman and founder of real estate giant Terranova Corp. is another veteran Democratic fundraiser who serves as vice chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, which promotes Jewish support for Democrats. In addition to soliciting campaign contributions from his own network, Bittel has personally given more than $230,000 to federal Democratic candidates and committees since 2008. In 2010, he was a leading supporter of Kendrick Meek for U.S. Senate.

Justin Day of Tampa. Day is only 31 but already a veteran fundraiser. He was Alex Sink's chief fundraiser for chief financial officer and governor, and previously worked on the gubernatorial campaign of Rod Smith, for the Florida Mainstreet Democrats political group and for everybody from Sen. Bill Nelson to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. He works for the Cardenas Group lobbying firm.

Joseph Falk of Miami. The mortgage broker-turned government consultant is among the most prominent gay rights activists in Florida and a veteran fundraiser. He served on the U.S. Federal Reserve Board's consumer advisory council, was former president and legislative chairman of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, and is a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

Don Hinkle of Tallahassee. The 56-year-old trial lawyer was a leading Obama fundraiser four years ago and is back at it again this cycle.

John Morgan of Lake Mary. A ubiquitous presence on Morgan & Morgan's TV commercials, the 56-year-old personal injury lawyer has raised money for countless Democrats and Republicans alike. These days some politicos are wondering whether the frequent ads featuring Morgan & Morgan lawyer Charlie Crist are a precursor to another Crist gubernatorial run — as a Democrat next time.

Abigail and F.J. Pollak of Miami Beach. Abigail Pollak, a 43-year-old lawyer and native of Peru, is among the most prolific Hispanic fundraisers in the country. She was a strong Hillary Clinton supporter in 2008, but hosted a Michelle Obama fundraiser as soon as Obama locked up the nomination. Obama appointed her to the Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Museum of the American Latino. F.J. Pollak, the 49-year-old CEO of TracFone Wireless, also taps his network for campaign contributions.

Bobby Stein of Jacksonville. The 54-year-old president of a family holding company used to be a fairly reliable Republican contributor, donating to the likes of George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris and Tom Gallagher. In recent years, though, he has veered to the Democrats, backing Alex Sink for governor and personally contributing $28,000 to the state party in the last election cycle.

Andrew Weinstein of Coral Springs. The 42-year-old personal injury lawyer has been raising his profile as a Democratic fundraiser in recent years. He hosted Obama campaign manager Jim Messina this year for a strategy briefing with top Florida fundraisers.

$50,000-$100,000

Jeremy Alters, 40, of Hallandale Beach; trial lawyer.

Cynthia Friedman, 77, of Palm Beach; investor and veteran activist.

Alan Ginsburg, 73, of Orlando; real estate.

Jon Mills, 64, of Gainesville; former state House speaker, director of Center for Governmental Responsibility at University of Florida.

Mike Mogull, 30, of Weston; real estate.

Steve Pajcic, 65, of Jacksonville; trial lawyer and former gubernatorial candidate.

Allison Tant, 50, of Tallahassee; former lobbyist and wife of Barry Richard, trial lawyer and former Bush-Cheney recount lawyer.

Joseph and Deanna Zednik, 69 and 63, of Bonita Springs; investors.

Florida bundlers help bring in big bucks for Obama 10/22/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 22, 2011 8:19pm]

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