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Obama Returns to Wall Street For Campaign Donations


This time, the Wall Street bigwigs aren't so quick to pull out their checkbooks. But why?

Nearly $1 million from Goldman Sachs (GS), over $700,000 from Citigroup (C), $695,132 from JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and $514,818 from Morgan Stanley (MS).

These are some of the top donations from big bank employees, their immediate family members and political action committees to Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. Prominent hedge fund managers like Steve Cohen, Dan Loeb and Cliff Asness also lined up to back Obama, writing checks to finance his bid. Three years and a whole lot of tough rhetoric later, the president returned to Wall Street with his arms and pockets outstretched, looking for a truce and another round of campaign contributions.

According to the New York Times, Obama recently gathered a couple dozen Wall Street CEOs, many of whom served as the backbone of his first campaign, in the White House Blue Room for a thinly veiled business pow-wow about economic recovery, the deficit and hedge fund regulation. He was courting them for their two cents...perhaps more literally than figuratively.

"The event, organized by the Democratic National Committee, kicked off an aggressive push by Mr. Obama to win back the allegiance of one of his most vital sources of campaign cash -- in part by trying to convince Wall Street that his policies, far from undercutting the investor class, have helped bring banks and financial markets back to health."

Among the hedge fund honchos and bank CEOs in attendance were Tudor Investment Corporation founder Paul Tudor Jones and Glenn Dubin, co-founder and CEO of Highbridge Capital Management. This time, the Wall Street bigwigs aren't so quick to pull out their checkbooks. But why?

It's true that during this presidential term, Obama engaged in some Wall Street name calling -- specifically referring to banking CEOs as "fat cats" -- and blamed investment firms and hedge funds for contributing to the financial crisis, but as far as his actions are concerned, the president hasn't exactly put their money where his mouth is.

Obama is, after all, the president who reserved positions in his cabinet to members of the American financial elite like Larry Summers as Director of the White House National Economic Council, General Electric (GE) CEO Jeffrey Immelt as head of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and William M. Daley, former banking executive with service to JPMorgan Chase, as Chief of Staff.

Obama was also responsible for the bank-bailout program which used hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to pay hedge funds to buy up his donors' toxic assets at inflated prices. And while he may have grumbled about extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, he ultimately capitulated.

The president seems to be stuck in a you-can't-please-all-the-people predicament. "If you look at the statements coming out of this White House, the irony is, is that on the left we are perceived as being in the pockets of Big Business," Obama told Bloomberg Businessweek, "And then on the business side, we are perceived as being anti-business."

While many have abandoned the Obama camp in its upcoming White House bid, the president still counts a few powerful hangers-on in his joint campaign filings with the Democratic National Committee. Obama has charged this small group of loyalists -- including Chairman and CEO of UBS Group Americas (UBS) Robert Wolf, Mark T. Gallogly, co-founder of Centerbridge Partners and hedge fund managers Orin S. Kramer and Eric Mindich -- with the task of doing his bidding to win back the rest of his former donors' favor.

Among those unlikely to be persuaded are the longtime Democrat fundraising powerhouse husband and wife team of Steven L. Rattner and Maureen White. Rattner is a founder of the Quadrangle Group and served as Obama's Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury and White is the former finance chair for the Democratic National Committee.

One former Democratic donor, who spoke to the New York Times under terms of anonymity, "said it was ironic that the same president who once criticized bankers as 'fat cats' would now invite them to dine at Daniel, where the six-course tasting menu runs to $195 a person."
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