President Barack Obama’s campaign raised $33.6 million last quarter from "bundlers," supporters of the president who collect checks from friends, family and associates and deliver them to the campaign, according to a list released by the campaign Friday night.
A total of 90 new bundlers appeared on the list, bringing the total to 532 and the total amount of contributions to $106 million.
Among the new donors are Nicole Avant and her husband Ted Sarandos, who together reached the $500,000 level — the top tier for bundlers. Avant was Obama’s appointee as ambassador to the Bahamas until she resigned in November.
She was the subject of a critical inspector general’s report that concluded her ambassadorship was “an extended period of dysfunctional leadership and mismanagement, which has caused problems throughout the embassy.”
According to some news reports, since her return to Beverly Hills, Calif., Avant has acted as a key Hollywood conduit for contributions to the Obama campaign.
The campaign discloses its bundlers in four tiers: $50,000-100,000; $100,000-200,000; $200,000-500,000 and $500,000 or more. It is impossible to tell exactly how much each bundler raised, but it is possible to arrive at a minimum dollar amount.
There are 154 bundlers at the $50,000-$100,000 level; 120 at the $100,000-$200,000 range; 141 at the $200,000-$500,000 range and 117 at the $500,000-plus level. There was a big increase in the number of elite bundlers — only 61 were in the top tier three months ago.
Of the brand new bundlers, nine are in the top tier.
Of the individuals who were previously listed as bundlers, 115 raised enough cash to bump up to higher fundraising tiers, including 45 who advanced to the $500,000-and-up level. One of those, Mattie McFaddon-Lawson, was appointed to the President's Advisory Committee on the Arts for the Kennedy Center.
Four bundlers listed in the previous report were absent this quarter. Among them was Abake Assongba, who had collected $50,000-$100,000 this cycle. Earlier this month Assongba was accused of fraud by a Swiss businessman who claims Assongba scammed him by email and used the money to finance a multimillion-dollar home.
It’s not clear why the four names were dropped from the list.
Among the states, California is home to the most bundlers, with 108, followed by New York with 83 and Illinois with 49. Hawaii, Oklahoma, Indiana, Oregon and the Virgin Islands each are home to one bundler. There are nine foreign-based bundlers listed by the campaign: five in the United Kingdom, two in France, one in Switzerland and one in China.
Contributions from foreign nationals are against the law, but it is not unusual for U.S. citizens living outside the country to give to campaigns.
In 2008, major candidates from both parties released their bundler information. So far this cycle only the Obama campaign has followed that practice.
Bundling draws the ire of many public interest groups because it skirts individual contribution limits. Critics say that by pooling these donations, bundlers enhance their stature as financiers and they may seek political favors in return for their largesse.
The bundled cash goes to the “Obama Victory Fund,” a joint fundraising committee consisting of the campaign and the Democratic National Committee. It is not known how much of the total went to the campaign and how much went to the DNC.
The maximum contribution to the party is $30,800 per person. The maximum contribution to the campaign is $5,000 - $2,500 for the primary and $2,500 for the general election.
Obama has taken fire from Republicans for appointing megadonors to administration posts, some largely ceremonial and others advisory. But that criticism has done nothing to keep the administration from continuing the practice.
Earlier this year the Center reported that at least 68 Obama bundlers for the 2012 election or their spouses have served in the administration in some capacity; at least 250 of the bundlers visited the White House, and another 30 have ties to companies that conduct business with federal agencies or hope to do so in the future.
A 2011 Center investigation found nearly 200 of Obama’s 2008 campaign bundlers or their spouses, won White House appointments. Nearly 80 percent of those who raised $500,000 or more joined the administration in some role, often as ambassadors. Obama’s record of welcoming bundlers from his first campaign into his administration is about the same as former President George W. Bush’s, the investigation found.
Requests for comment left with the Obama campaign were not returned by the time this story was posted.