Obama, Clinton Fundraiser Appointed to National Security Panel

Rajiv Fernando resigns from panel after ABC News questions.

ByABC News
September 5, 2012, 7:15 PM

Sept. 5, 2012 — -- For one of President Obama's top fundraisers, the appointment last year to an elite group of State Department security advisors appeared to be an odd fit.

Rajiv Fernando, a Chicago securities trader, has never touted any international security credentials, yet he was appointed alongside an august collection of nuclear scientists, former cabinet secretaries and members of Congress to advise Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on crucial security matters.

One current member of the International Security Advisory Board told ABC News that none of the other members could figure out who Fernando was or why he was there.

Fernando, president of Chopper Trading, has distinguished himself in one way, though. He is one of the most prolific bundlers of campaign contributions for President Obama's reelection, raising more than $500,000 this cycle. Prior to his State Department appointment, Fernando gave between $100,000 and $250,000 to the William J. Clinton Foundation, and another $30,000 to a political advocacy group, WomenCount, that has indirectly helped Hillary Clinton retire her lingering campaign debts.

How Fernando found a place on the intelligence panel remains an unanswered question. Fernando declined repeated requests to be interviewed over the past several months. When he was approached by ABC News this week in his hotel lobby, he turned away from cameras, asked hotel security to arrest the reporters, and at one point grabbed an ABC News camera and apparently attempted to break it.

Days after ABC News contacted the State Department in 2011 to ask about his qualifications to serve on the panel, Fernando announced he had stepped down, saying he was too busy to participate. The State Department declined to provide his resume, or offer comment.

INTERACTIVE: Meet the 2012 Campaign Superdonors

As Fernando exchanged hugs and greetings with other top donors in Charlotte this week, he embodied what some watchdog groups say has been a surprising aspect of President Obama's first term. Despite his pledges to change the way business is done in Washington, Obama has continued a tradition of appointing top donors to prestigious posts in government and seats on influential federal commissions.

"Overall the problem is the declaration by Obama that things would be so different," said Melanie Sloan, who runs Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "When it doesn't look so different, that is a disappointment."