Healthcare lobbyist bundles big bucks for key Senate Democrats' campaigns

A vital player in the battle over healthcare reform raised the most campaign contributions for Senate Democrats so far this fall, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records.

Ken Raske, president and CEO of the Greater New York Hospital Association, collected donations worth more than $152,000 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) in September alone, according to the latest FEC reports.

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Raske is an important voice in this year’s healthcare debate. His association, representing more than 300 not-for-profit and public hospitals in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, has spent more than a $1 million on federal lobbying in 2009 so far. Raske was also one of three hospital association representatives invited to the White House in May for a meeting with President Barack Obama and other administration officials to discuss healthcare reform.

After Raske, Al Cardenas of Miami-based law firm Tew Cardenas raised the most money among lobbyists this fall.

Cardenas, a former head of the Florida Republican Party, bundled more than $66,200 this fall for Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), who is running for the Senate. Crist also collected more than $25,400 from Daniel Murphy of BG&R Group.

Under an ethics law Congress passed in 2007, politicians must report to the FEC lobbyists who have bundled money for their campaigns. A bundler is a person who collects political donations from others and then directs the funds to one candidate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) attracted the most money bundled by lobbyists in the third quarter.

Lobbyists including Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group, Paul DiNino of DiNino Associations, Linda Daschle, wife of ex-Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), and the political action committee for law firm DLA Piper raised a total of $100,100 for Reid, according to FEC reports.

Reid is expected to face a tough re-election bid in 2010. Recent polls have show Reid trailing two Republicans hoping to unseat him.

Senior Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) also found backing among lobbyists this past quarter, collecting $81,750 in bundled contributions. PACs for Delta Airlines and stock exchange NASDAQ OMX as well as Zachary Williams of Cauthen Forbes & Williams raised money for Schumer. 

According to third quarter FEC reports, lobbyists and lobbyist-registered PACs also bundled checks for several other senators or Senate hopefuls. They raised $27,050 for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), $23,450 for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and $16,348 for Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), who is running for the Democratic nomination against Sen. Arlen Specter (D).