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Organized labor provides the money behind one of John McCain's toughest critics

October 17, 2008 | 11:06 am

Campaign Money Watch’s parent organization bills itself as “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving America’s campaign finance laws.”

For much of the year, however, Campaign Money Watch has been particularly tough on Republican John McCain.

It garnered wide attention for taking McCain to task over oil industry donations. It also has criticized him because some of his campaign aides have been high-priced lobbyists, an issue that Barack Obama has used to hammer McCain.

Campaign Money Watch’s latest campaign finance disclosure shows its largest third-quarter donor was American Federation of State County & Municipal Employees, one of the Democratic Party’s most loyal contributors. AFSCME gave $300,000.

Its second largest donor has been Texas billionaire David Bonderman, a significant Democratic donor, who has given $200,000 this year, including $75,000 three weeks ago.

Bonderman is a founding partner of Texas Pacific Group, a private equity fund that holds or has held stakes in casino company Harrah’s, as well as Burger King and airlines.

“We spend their funds in ways to further reform,” said David Donnelly, who oversees Campaign Money Watch's parent group, Public Campaign Action Fund. “The thing that holds together the donors is that they support the mission we’re on to hold politicians accountable who are against reform.”

As a so-called 527, Campaign Money Watch is allowed to take donations of unlimited size, and files quarterly reports detailing its fundraising.

McCain, co-author of much of federal campaign law, was limited to taking no more than $2,300 from individual donors during the primary, and must file monthly reports.

McCain opted to take $84 million in public funding for his general election campaign. Obama opted out of the federal system. Donnelly did note the group issued a statement critical of Obama for not taking federal funding.

-- Dan Morain

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