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Corzine, top Obama fundraiser, under FBI investigation


President Barack Obama (left) campaigning for former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (right) in Holmdel, N.J., July 16, 2009. Corzine lost reelection to Republican Chris Christie.

Jon Corzine, now the center of an FBI investigation into the handling of hundreds of millions of dollars invested in his securities firm, was one of the leading Wall Street fundraisers for President Obama’s campaign and suggested to investors that he might take a top administration post if the president were re-elected.

His new legal troubles, sparked by the bankruptcy filing of his investment firm, MF Global, could complicate the president’s efforts to raise money from the financial community given Corzine’s central role in those efforts.

A recent list of top “bundlers” or elite fundraisers released by Obama’s campaign listed Corzine in the highest category -- reporting that he had raised more than $500,000 for the campaign. A substantial chunk of those funds were collected at a $35,800 per ticket fundraiser that Corzine hosted at his wife’s spacious Fifth Avenue apartment last April -- an event that was touted at the time as part of a concerted effort by the president’s campaign team to reach out to well-heeled Wall Street donors who had been alienated by some of his policies and previous public comments.  

Just a few months after that event, Corzine’s firm, MF Global, surprised many Wall Street investors by issuing highly unusual securities notes that appeared to highlight Corzine’s close relationship with the White House: The notes suggested that the former New Jersey governor might be in line for a top administration post should the president get re-elected.

The notes promised to pay an extra 1% in interest rates in the event of “the departure of Mr. Corzine as our full time chief executive officer due to his appointment to a federal position by the President of the United States and his confirmation…by the United States Senate prior to July 1, 2013.”

Some veteran Wall Street analysts said they couldn’t recall ever seeing such a contingency written into securities notes. “It was bizarre,” said Christopher Whalen, a Wall Street analyst.

There was speculation in the financial press at the time that Corzine might be a candidate to replace Tim Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury. But today, an Obama campaign official declined to comment on Corzine’s legal troubles -- or whether Corzine was ever being considered for an appointment.

“He’s one of our volunteer fundraisers,” said the campaign official when asked about Corzine, adding that the president’s is the only presidential campaign that discloses the identities of its bundlers.

The investigation into Corzine’s firm, MF Global, was triggered by reports of hundreds of millions of dollars in missing funds and findings by regulators that MF Global may have broken rules requiring it to keep client’s money and company funds in separate accounts.

Ironically, on the same day that Corzine’s legal troubles were erupting -- posing potential problems for the president’s Wall Street fundraising efforts -- GOP rival Mitt Romney was holding one of his biggest New York fundraisers yet at a midtown Manhattan hotel.

A copy of the invite shows the fundraiser had more than 100 co-chairs, many of them top executives on Wall Street such as hedge-fund billionaire John Paulson, who has already donated $1 million to a “Super PAC” backing Romney’s candidacy.