When I saw Radley Balko’s post that 6 of the 15 members of Obama’s transition team were bundlers, I had an immediate reaction of disgust. Even for something like a transition team, where the individuals aren’t wielding serious power, it’s important to pick people for genuine ability, rather than mere fundraising ability.
Two thoughts provided a bit of a relief to me. First, Obama’s list of bundlers was huge–561 people in all–that’s somewhat worrying by itself, since bundling is a way for powerful people to angle for access. But in this particular case, the simple ratio makes it a lot less weird that six of these people are on Obama’s committee. Second, and more importantly, the fact that people on the transition team were bundlers only matters depending on the direction of causality. That is, suppose you strongly supported Obama, and you had the ability to act as a bundler. You’d definitely do it, and your motivation for it would be even stronger if you were involved in the campaign.
The six individuals we’re talking about are Susan Rice, Federico Peña, Julius Genachowski, Donald Gips, Valerie Jarrett, and Michael Froman. Rice was on the National Security Council under Clinton, and was a senior foreign policy advisor to Obama. Peña had two cabinet level posts, and was a national co-chair for Obama. Gips was Chief Domestic Policy Advisor for Al Gore, Genachowski was part of the FCC and clerked for Souter. Jarrett is a senior campaign advisor and is expected to be part of the administration. Froman is the odd man out–he doesn’t seem to have any government experience (though his wikipedia bio is short), but he has a lot of private sector experience.
In short, I think it’s hard to find a story here. Bundling raises a lot of problems, but there’s not much of a case that these folks are anything but really qualified people, who were bundlers because they wanted to contribute to the Obama campaign.