Funds Tie Obama to Richardson Probe Figure

Embattled executive David Rubin gave thousands to campaign.

January 06, 2009, 12:26 PM

Jan. 6, 2009— -- President-elect Barack Obama took big money from a man at the center of a federal probe that has forced one of Obama's top Cabinet picks to withdraw.

Financial records show the Obama campaign got more than $30,000 from California financier David Rubin, the target of an investigation into donations and possible "pay-to-play" deals involving New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Obama's pick for commerce secretary.

Richardson removed himself from consideration for the post Sunday, saying the ongoing grand jury investigation threatened to hold up his confirmation. Richardson and Rubin have both denied any wrongdoing in the matter, which involved contributions and state business in 2003 and 2004.

In late September, Rubin attended an exclusive Los Angeles fundraiser for Obama, held at the Beverly Hills' Greystone Mansion. Attendees gave tens of thousands of dollars which the campaign split between its own coffers, the Democratic National Committee and state-level campaign groups supporting Obama and Democratic candidates. The technique helps campaigns take in from individuals far more than the $2,300 maximum they are allowed to give to a single campaign fund.

Rubin's money went to a joint Obama-DNC fund ($28,500), the DNC itself ($26,200), and to the Obama campaign ($2,300), according to the database of campaign donations at OpenSecrets.Org. News of the federal investigation into Rubin's New Mexico dealings had broken less than three weeks earlier.

According to Entertainment Weekly's coverage of the event, Rubin sat at Table 17 – one table away from Leonardo DiCaprio, "Survivor" producer David Katzenberg and comedian Chris Rock.

Reached by phone Monday, Rubin declined to answer questions. His firm's spokesman, Allan Ripp, said neither he nor Rubin would discuss Rubin's donations to Obama or his attendance at the fundraiser. Ripp said that Rubin sought nothing for his donation but to elect Obama.

Neither the Obama campaign nor the DNC responded immediately to a request for comment.

Rubin's Firm No Stranger to Scandal

Rubin's firm, which helps local and state governments issue bonds, is no stranger to scandal and controversy. The IRS has investigated him on suspiciously high fees and concerns about his ties to banks who his firm connects with governments to issue bonds. The Justice Department raided his offices in 2006. No charges have been brought, and Rubin has denied any wrongdoing.

In early September – two weeks before Rubin attended Obama's Beverly Hills fundraiser – a group of Alabamans sued Rubin's firm and others over multi-billion dollar bond deals. The suit alleged CDR was part of a conspiracy which defrauded citizens and with bribery and corruption.

CDR has not responded to the suit. In a statement released Monday, Rubin said that his firm "has never practiced pay-for-play, on any playing field where we do business."

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