Telstra chief moonlighting for McCain
By Matt O'Sullivan
October 6, 2008
TELSTRA's boss, Sol Trujillo, has been moonlighting for his best pal, John McCain.
Having pocketed $13.4 million this year guiding the telco through the biggest upheaval in its history, Mr Trujillo has joined a host of Wall Street bankers in personally raising up to $US100,000 ($128,000) for the presidential hopeful.
His efforts are part of a sophisticated fund-raising technique US political parties use to raise tens of millions of dollars. It legally bypasses campaign laws that cap personal donations at $US2300 by using fund-raising "bundlers" to lobby workmates, friends and family to support a candidate financially.
A list of the Republican presidential candidate's biggest fund-raisers shows Mr Trujillo has raised between $US50,000 and $US100,000.
There is secrecy about how he raised the money and how many people contributed but typically "bundlers" host black-tie dinners. A Telstra spokesman could not shed any light on Mr Trujillo's methods, which he described as his "private business".
But in February Mr Trujillo said he would "max out in terms of what the federal election laws allow" him to donate. The long-time friend of Senator McCain is also chairman of the campaign's so-called National Hispanic Advisory Board.
His latest efforts replicate those eight years ago for George Bush when Mr Trujillo earned the title of "Major League Pioneer" for raising at least $US100,000 for the Republicans.
Since he arrived in Australia more than three years ago, Mr Trujillo has earned a reputation for taking frequent and extended trips to the US, Europe and Asia. This comes as Telstra undergoes a five-year turnaround strategy that will cut up to 12,000 jobs by 2010. Mr Trujillo, who was in London last week, sometimes meets Senator McCain when in the US and they talk regularly over the phone.
His best known "amigo", Phil Burgess is also helping the McCain campaign, after resigning as Telstra's public affairs chief in August to return to the US.
Dr Burgess remains on Telstra's payroll as a consultant.
The research director of Texans for Public Justice, Andrew Wheat, said "bundling" was a way around the campaign laws that were supposed to limit the influence of individuals in elections.
"Once you have maxed out your personal giving, it is a way to get people to keep giving. It is the 'energiser bunny' approach to fund-raising - those that give just keep going and going," he said. "[Mr Trujillo] was in the first wave of the new era of bundlers."
Before Senator McCain pulled out of the race for the Republican nomination in 2000, Mr Trujillo was his national finance co-chairman. Filings to the US Federal Election Commission in late 2004 show he personally gave $US25,000 to the Republican national committee and $US5000 to the President's Dinner committee.