So candidates count on elite fund-raisers - about 2,000 in all - who package together small donations from family, friends and associates, delivering big bundles of cash.
That's why they're called bundlers, CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports.
"Bundlers are industry titans, CEOs, lobbyists, hedge fund managers," said Laura MacCleery, director of Congress Watch for the group Public Citizen. "Much more likely to be John K. Millionaire than Jane Q. Public."
Bundlers often do their business behind the scenes, hosting small, private fundraising events, like one for the Republican candidate Fred Thompson in the Virginia home of a telecommunications executive.
So beyond their belief in the candidates, what do they get?
"Many of them do want access to government," said Craig McDonald, the director of Texans for Public Justice.
McDonald has followed the money raised by bundlers tied to President Bush dating back to his days as Governor of Texas.
"You can just track the bundlers and see that there is a link between bundlers, influence, access, the White House and to government," he said.
A look at the list of Bush Bundlers reveals more than 170 received government appointments, including four cabinet posts. Twenty-seven were named ambassadors.
Charles Swindells became Ambassador to New Zealand; John Palmer, the ambassador to Portugal. Charles Cobb's wife, Susan - Jamaica; all raised at least $100,000.
In addition, dozens more - including six energy executives - were named to transition teams critical in shaping administration policy.
We called 40 Bundlers. The only one who would talk to us was Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot. He's raised millions of dollars for Rudy Guiliani and other candidates.
"What do I want?" Lagone said. "I don't want anything."
What does Ken Langone want for all those checks?
"Well, I would consider it one of the most disrespectful things for me to do to take the money from my friends to get something for me," Lagone told Keteyian.
Keteyian asked, "I mean, I have names here that raised a lot of money that ended up...Ambassador to the European Union, on the Amtrak Board, Assistant Secretary of labor, the ambassador to Austria, Belgium, Belize, Canada.
"Wonderful. Look, they shouldn't get the edge if they raise money, but they shouldn't be punished if they raise money either," Lagone said.
Can he assure people that all of those who are raising money for Giuliani and other candidates aren't getting anything in return?
"Not one person has ever come to me and said, 'okay, I helped you, now I need this' or 'if I help you, I want that,'" Lagone said.
That may well be true, but when you un-bundle the names behind all these events, you may well see the faces of the next administration.