President Obama is in town today, bulking up his war chest with a fund-raising party at the Waldorf Astoria and a private reception for wealthy donors. The reception — which will be held at the Fifth Avenue apartment of the wife of former New Jersey governor (and ex–Goldman Sachs CEO) Jon Corzine — will be attended by about 70 thick-walleted supporters, each of whom will cough up $38,500 for the honor of kicking Obama’s reelection efforts into gear.
President Obama’s Manhattan schedule has been taken by some as a sign that his once-testy relationship with New York’s financial elite is on the mend. A source told the Post that the reception on Fifth is “a real indication that there’s a lot more support on Wall Street and in New York for Obama this time around.”
But is it really? A front-page article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal said exactly the opposite: Hedge-fund managers — the orca of the finance food chain — have been staging a slow exodus from Obama’s inner circle and giving their millions to Republican candidates who will, presumably, treat them more kindly. Obama may be able to get reelected without Wall Street’s support, but his fund-raising schedule indicates that he’d rather not have to. Here, we draw a rough list of the finance types he can hit up for money, the ones he can’t, and the ones who should probably be on the receiving end of a presidential muffin basket pretty soon, if you get our drift.
Orin Kramer: A general partner at hedge fund Boston Provident LP, Kramer was crowned “King of the New York Obamasaurs” for his megabundling during Obama’s 2008 campaign and is co-hosting tonight’s reception for the president.
Roger Altman: The founder of Evercore Partners and longtime Democratic insider, Altman was a Hillary supporter in 2008 but is solidly in Obama’s corner for a 2012 run. Earlier this month, he gave the president advice for reelection in a Financial Times op-ed, writing: “Mr. Obama must continue his centrist push.”
Robert Wolf: The UBS America chief raised more than $500,000 for Obama’s 2008 campaign and used to speak excitedly of the president’s “rock-star status.” There’s been no sign of a fading bromance: Obama named Wolf to his ad hoc Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in February, and we hear that Wolf will be a core bundler for the reelection bid.
Marc Lasry: The aspiring pop dad and CEO of Avenue Capital Group is “still a huge supporter,” according to the Journal, and plans to continue raising money for Obama’s reelection campaign. “When you really break it down, he has actually done a pretty good job,” Lasry added.
Steve Rattner: The private-equity deal-maker was good to Obama in ‘08 — good enough that in his first term, Obama made him “car czar,” putting him in charge of the restructuring of the U.S. automobile industry. But Rattner, who made his millions as founder of the Quadrangle Group, was felled late last year by a kickback scandal that ended in a $10 million settlement, a five-year ban from appearing before New York pension funds, and front-page embarrassment. Rattner might support Obama’s reelection from afar, but there’s no way he’ll be allowed to be as vocal and visible as the last time around.
Rajat Gupta: The former McKinsey director and Goldman board member made big donations to Obama’s 2008 campaign, and he and his wife were the president’s guests at the 2009 state dinner in honor of India’s Prime Minister Singh. But Gupta has been implicated in the insider-trading case of Raj Rajaratnam, accused of passing inside information to the Galleon Group founder. Gupta, like Rattner, will have to keep any support for Obama below the radar.
Daniel Loeb, Steve Cohen, Ken Griffin: These three hedge-fund honchos and onetime Obama megadonors have all turned on the president since 2008, citing displeasure with his administration’s treatment of near-and-dear issues like financial regulation and carried-interest tax hikes. According to the Journal, Griffin donated $1.8 million to Republicans in 2010, Cohen recently gave $1.5 million to the Republican Governors Association, and Loeb was reduced to sending a sarcastic e-mail to a group of friends, in which he said, “[Obama] really loves us and when he beats us, he doesn’t mean it.”
Lloyd Blankfein: The Goldman Sachs CEO is a longtime Democratic donor, and Goldman’s analysts have generally supported Obamanomics (predicting, for example, that $61 billion in budget cuts proposed this year by Republicans in Congress would cut U.S. economic growth in half). But the firm’s relationship with the administration soured during last year’s testy congressional hearings. (During his first year in office, Obama reportedly said of Blankfein and other bank CEOs, “These guys want to be paid like rock stars when all they’re doing is lip-syncing capitalism.”) The president has been mum on Goldman recently — a smart move, considering the firm’s employees contributed nearly $1 million to his 2008 campaign.
George Soros: The left-wing financier (and Glenn Beck bête noire) threw his support behind Obama’s first campaign but has recently been expressing his displeasure with how the president has handled the domestic economy, telling CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in February that Obama has “lost control of the agenda.” He may still donate to Obama’s reelection bid, but it’s clear his endorsement won’t come without qualifications.
Steve Schwarzman: the Blackstone chief would be an unlikely member of Team Obama — he’s been a major Republican donor for years, and he once compared the president’s efforts to hike carried-interest tax rates to Hitler invading Poland in 1939. But in an interview last week, Schwarzman seemed to have softened his stance. He said that the mounting federal deficit would mean that everybody in America — even private-equity billionaires — would have to “give something up” in the form of higher taxes.
Jamie Dimon: The JPMorgan Chase CEO cried foul over Obama’s scorn for “fat-cat bankers” in the wake of the financial crisis and recently said that proposed Dodd-Frank regulations of the $600 trillion swaps market “would damage America.” But Obama recently tapped former Dimon deputy William Daley as his chief of staff, and Dimon has given his blessing to Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. According to rumors picked up by CNBC’s John Carney, both Dimon and Blankfein may be headed to the Corzines’ reception tonight — possibly, Democrats hope, to mend fences.