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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Word from the Fat Cats

John Heileman's New York profile of the Obama campaign is getting attention for acknowledging that it will run a fear campaign against Romney. More significant material lies deeper in the piece.  Bill Burton says he is having trouble raising money for the pro-Obama Super PAC because of the president's past denunciations of such groups.
But one of the most vaunted fat-cat-wranglers in Democratic history tells me that this is only part of the story. “There are several things going on,” this person explains. “Number one is the shabby treatment the president has given his donors. Unlike Clinton, who loved them and accommodated them, Obama announced he didn’t like big money and gave them the back of the hand. Point two is the president’s campaign announced—or not announced, they let it out, it got in the press, it got in the ether—that they were going to raise $1 billion. So when they come to you and say, ‘We need two-fifty,’ the answer is, ‘What the f--- do you need my two-fifty for? You’re going to raise a billion! Not a hundred million. A f---ing billion dollars!’ You’re getting into federal-budget territory with that kind of claim.

“Three is the Obama donors aren’t scared. They think this is a slam dunk. They don’t think the president’s in trouble. They look at the Republican-primary process and say, That group of f---ing clowns? Fourth, Burton and his partner are great guys, but they have no experience in fund-raising. They thought that with the patina of the White House, the checks would just roll in. Wrong.

“Then, everybody looks to George Soros. ‘Why won’t George throw in?’ I know George pretty well. Early on, he wanted to come in to make his case on the economy. George doesn’t want legislation tweaked. He doesn’t want a rule changed. He wants his ideas heard out. But George couldn’t get a meeting in the White House. And then George is saying, ‘Where are the Obama money people with their 5 and 10 million dollars? Where is Penny Pritzker, Exhibit A? Why isn’t she throwing in 10 million?’ And that is a very good question.”

A prominent private-equity player in Gotham who supports Obama agrees with all of that but adds another insight. “Among rich Republicans, the view of Obama is that he’s the Devil,” this person says. “But on the Democratic side, certainly on Wall Street, there’s no visceral reaction against Romney. So if I give $10 million, I’m out the $10 million, and I’m gonna pay more in taxes if Obama wins. And I’m doing it against somebody who—I may not agree with his social views, but I don’t think he’s a bad person. And I’m not really into negative advertising, which is what a super-PAC would do … Then there’s the fact nobody on Wall Street thinks Obama gives a s--- about them. They think his attitude is, ‘If I lose Wall Street, it’s not the end of the world.’ And they’re right.”