Clinton Basks in Buffett Glow
By: Wall Street Journal
Events Tout Support Of Business Leaders As Worries Shift
By AMY CHOZICK and MONICA LANGLEY
SAN FRANCISCO — Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are vying for the affections of legendary investor Warren Buffett, as the economy eclipses Iraq as a key election issue.
Mr. Buffett has said he won’t endorse a candidate but that he is willing to throw his substantial fund-raising capabilities behind both Sens. Clinton and Obama.
At a fundraising stop in San Francisco on Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton sat down with billionaire investor Warren Buffett to discuss the economy, taxes and even the recent credit crunch. Stacey Delo reports.
“I told both of them that if they ran for president I’d support them, and here we are,” Mr. Buffett said after an event for Mrs. Clinton here yesterday.
The fund-raising “Conversation with Warren Buffett” drew over 1,500 people, including a mix of Silicon Valley executives such as John Doerr, a partner at venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; philanthropist and founder of the Esprit clothing line Susie Tompkins Buell; and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Tickets ranged from $100 to more than $2,300, drawing in around $1 million, according to the Clinton campaign.
As Mr. Obama enjoys the endorsement of celebrity and entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey, the Clinton campaign may become more aggressive in seeking Mr. Buffett’s support.
Mr. Buffett, who heads Berkshire Hathaway Inc., Omaha, Neb., held an event for Mrs. Clinton in New York in June that raised at least $1 million.
When Mrs. Clinton was campaigning in Iowa a few months ago she asked Mr. Buffett’s daughter, Susie Buffett, who is handling much of his political work, to ride in her motorcade.
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The Obama campaign is also touting its links to the investor. Mr. Obama speaks frequently of the financial guru, invoking his name when he discusses the economy. “Warren Buffett is a dear friend and somebody I call frequently. He’s proving to be an invaluable sounding board,” Mr. Obama said recently.
“Obama appreciates the support and advice Buffett has given him over the course of this campaign and looks forward to his continued assistance as we move forward,” campaign spokesman Bill Burton said yesterday.
Mr. Buffett said he doesn’t have an event planned with Mr. Obama at this time.
At yesterday’s Clinton fund-raiser, the New York senator asked Mr. Buffett questions from the audience on topics including taxes, the depreciation of the U.S. dollar and whether new investment products such as derivatives and structured investment vehicles are safe investments.
Mr. Buffett criticized the Bush administration’s tax policy, saying it has contributed to the growing gap between rich and poor. “The super-rich have been getting a huge break,” Mr. Buffett said, “and it hasn’t trickled down.”
Mrs. Clinton interspersed her own questions for Mr. Buffett with the audience’s. Her first, “Warren Buffett, why are you a Democrat?,” drew a standing ovation.
Mr. Buffett has long identified with Democratic causes and criticized the Bush administration’s economic policies. He has also spoken favorably about the presidential prospects of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently left the Republican Party to become an independent, but has denied that he is planning to run.
In another effort to show she has the confidence of respected figures from the world of finance, Mrs. Clinton will hold a fund-raiser Friday for 750 attendees in New York during which she will make her first public campaign appearance with Robert Rubin, who served as treasury secretary under Bill Clinton.
Mr. Rubin, who resumed his duties as a director at Citigroup Inc. yesterday after temporarily serving as chairman, will join Mrs. Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in a discussion about the economy and foreign policy. Tickets for the event range from $1,000 to more than $25,000.
Write to Amy Chozick at firstname.lastname@example.org and Monica Langley at email@example.com
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