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Obama rewarded fundraising "bundlers" with plum jobs

President Barack Obama speaks at a Democratic National Committee (DNC) fundraising event in Atlanta, Monday, Aug. 2, 2010.
President Barack Obama speaks at a Democratic National Committee (DNC) fundraising event in Atlanta, Monday, Aug. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

President Obama granted plum jobs and appointments to almost 200 people who raised large sums for his presidential campaign, and his top fundraisers have won millions of dollars in federal contracts, according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity.

In one example detailed by the group's iWatch News, Telecom executive Donald H. Gips "bundled" half a million dollars in contributions to the president for his reelection campaign. ("Bundling" is the practice of gathering together a group of donations, and was popularized because of legal limits in individual contributions. It has been used particularly aggressively by Presidents George W. Bush and Obama.)

Gips went on to take charge of hiring in the Obama White House and (was later) named ambassador to South Africa. And his company, Level 3 Communications, was granted millions in stimulus contracts for broadband projects. Gips told iWatch he was "completely unaware" of the federal windfall. The company has taken $13.8 million in stimulus money.

The report found that 80 percent of Obama bundlers who raised $500,000 or more for Mr. Obama - many of whom are being asked to do the same for his reelection bid - ended up in "key administration posts," in the words of the White House.

More than half of Mr. Obama's ambassador nominees were from this group. One of them, Cynthia Stroum, became U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg; she resigned shortly before the release of a State Department report that deemed her "aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating."

Mr. Obama's bundlers were also granted White House access - they and their families "account for more than 3,000 White House meetings and visits," according to iWatch. (There were 800 bundler visits to the White House in just the first few months of the administration.) The report also found that "[a]t least 18 other bundlers have ties to businesses poised to profit from government spending to promote clean energy, telecommunications and other key administration priorities."

Mr. Obama's decision to reward his donors follows the pattern of his presidential predecessors. But it flies in the face of his campaign promise to reduce the clout of moneyed special interests. The report shows how his bundlers ended up working in the Department of Justice, Department of Energy and the Federal Communications Commission, among other federal agencies, and been appointed to policy advisory commissions.

Moneyed interests "get the access while you get to write a letter, they think they own this government," Mr. Obama said in kicking off his presidential campaign in 2007. "But we're here today to take it back."

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