A top donor to President Obama's reelection effort is facing accusations of fraud and impersonating a bank official, creating yet another round of unwanted campaign publicity for the president's reelection efforts.
Abake Assongba is accused of taking more than $650,000 to build a multi-million dollar home in Florida, a charge her husband denies.
Assongba is known in political finance circles as a "bundler," a term used to describe individuals who raise money from wealthy friends, gathers the checks and then funds them in to the campaign. So far, Assongba has donated or been responsible for approximately $50,000 in donations to the president's reelection efforts.
Obama isn't the first elected official to have to return money or disassociate themselves from those accused or convicted of illegal activity. When former billionaire Allen Stanford was indicted and convicted of fraud last month, some congressman from both parties returned contributions from Stanford to the Receiver who took control of his companies and assets.
Last month, the Obama campaign announced it was returning about $200,000 in campaign donations connected to a casino czar and drug smuggler Juan Jose Cardona. The campaign also returned money from Tony Rezko who was indicted in a $10 million bribery scheme.
According to reports from The Associated Press, Assongba is accused of stealing the $650,000 and also owes more than $10,000 in unpaid rent on an apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y. Apparently, Assongba created a now defunct charity that supported schools and humanitarian campaigns.
Assongba has donated more than $70,000 to Democratic candidates in past election cycles.
So far, the Obama campaign is the first to release a list of names of their bundlers, most all of whom have a long history of giving to other candidates or political parties. Assongba and her husband have also given $40,000 to Democratic House and Senate campaign committees, according to federal election records.
But Assongba's problems may go deeper than her pending fraud charges. She has also been accused of engaging in an email scam directed at a Swiss businessman. In 2009, Klaus Pusch sued Assongba for impersonating a bank official and taking more she later used to buy properties and build a home in Florida. Some of the money was later returned to Pusch and the case is still in the courts.
Those familiar with federal campaign finance election law say that vetting every bundler and contributor is virtually impossible and every now and then someone will slip through the cracks undetected.
"You can't have much of a vet for garden-variety donations," said Kenneth Gross, an election and campaign law specialist who represents corporations and candidates, told The Washington Post. But, he added, "for the candidates who are bundling hundreds of thousands of dollars, they should go through a reasonable level of due diligence beyond a Google search."
Obama campaign officials say they are currently researching the issues surrounding Assongba.