A White House spokesman Wednesday said fundraising prowess has nothing to do with getting a good job in the Obama administration, despite a report showing the president gave key posts to about 80 percent of his big-money “bundlers” from the 2008 campaign.
“I didn’t raise a half a million dollars,” presidential spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “I didn’t raise any money. I’m standing here.”
Mr. Carney was a journalist with Time magazine before accepting a job with the administration.
But many influential and wealthy people have landed administration jobs after raising at least $500,000 for Mr. Obama’s campaign. The Center for Public Integrity found that about 200 people, nearly 80 percent of Mr. Obama’s elite fundraisers or “bundlers,” got key administration posts. The group’s iWatch News division said half of those jobs were ambassadorships.
For example, Telecom executive Donald H. Gips of Level 3 Communications raised the requisite amount and was later named ambassador to South Africa. His firm received $13.8 million in federal stimulus money. Mr. Gips said he was unaware of that development.
Another bundler, venture capitalist Steven Westly, was appointed in August to a board that advises the Energy Department.
A year before Mr. Obama tapped him for the post, four firms in which his company invested received about $510 million in grants and loans from the Energy Department.
Rewarding big contributors is nothing new in presidential politics. Republican George W. Bush first made use of bundlers in his 2000 campaign.
In his first term, about 40 percent of the nearly 250 fundraisers ended up with jobs or appointments, including 23 ambassadorships and three Cabinet posts.
By Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004, bundlers known as “Pioneers” were given the job of raising at least $100,000, and “Rangers” were those who raised at least $200,000 each.
Mr. Obama pledged in the run-up to the 2008 campaign to fix the system of public financing of presidential elections, though he rejected public financing and overwhelmingly outspent Republican nominee John McCain.
He also railed against the corrupting influence of big-money lobbyists and the pay-to-play culture of Washington.
“The people who got those positions got them because of their credentials,” he said. “Being a supporter does not qualify you for a job or guarantee you a job, but it does not disqualify you, obviously.”
Don Beyer, a car dealer from Alexandria, Va., became ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Mr. Obama’s ambassador to London, Louis Susman, is a retired investment banker and longtime friend with no previous diplomatic experience.