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Romney Should Come Clean About Tainted Bundler

The indictment last week of Alan Fabian continued a rich tradition of major presidential fundraisers – or bundlers – running aground with the law.

If convicted, Fabian will follow in the footsteps of Jack Abramoff, Ken Lay and Thomas Noe, to name a few presidential bundlers who were subsequently convicted of felonies. And Fabian would enjoy a rare distinction among convicted bundlers: He would manage to taint not one, but two presidential candidates, Bush in 2004 and Mitt Romney in the current cycle.

A federal grand jury in Maryland indicted Fabian on nine mail fraud counts, nine money laundering counts, one obstruction of justice count, two bankruptcy fraud counts, and two perjury counts in a scheme that allegedly defrauded several companies and financial institutions of $32 million. Read about it in the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe

For its part, the Romney campaign is providing lessons in how to do the absolute least to make amends when the law comes knocking on a bundler’s door. In the wake of the indictment, the campaign announced that it was returning Fabian’s $2,300 contribution, but not the untold thousands (or hundreds of thousands) that Fabian brought in from other sources. The campaign wouldn’t even say if it would return the money contributed by Fabian’s wife.

“The money he helped raise was donated by people who have not been accused of any wrongdoing, and so there is no reason for returning it,” a campaign spokesman said.

In point of fact, there is plenty of reason to be suspicious of money raised by Fabian if the allegations against him prove true. Corrupt bundlers sometimes hit their fundraising targets by furnishing money to others on the condition that they contribute it to candidates. This shortcut was one of the things that landed Bush bundler Thomas Noe in the slammer. (Stealing from the Ohio’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation fund was the other.)

But there is a more fundamental question that remains unanswered: Who did give to Romney at Fabian’s behest?

The modern era of bundling took root in George W. Bush’s first campaign when the campaign figured out how to track the money arranged by bundlers without having to comply with disclosure requirements that would kick in if the bundler actually handled the checks. Bundlers had the contributors they solicited send checks directly to the campaign with their bundler’s number written on the check. The Bush campaign agreed to provide some information about who its bundlers were but not who the bundlers solicited contributions from.

If Romney really wanted to demonstrate that his Fabian-arranged donors were clean, the least he could do is say who they are.