Warren Buffett does doubleheader to raise money for Barack Obama

By Carol Eisenberg

June 26, 2008 at 12:53pm

The richest man in the world is ramping up his involvement to help elect Barack Obama.

A month after endorsing the Illinois senator for president, billionaire investor Warren Buffett will headline two fund-raisers in Chicago next Wednesday, as first reported by Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times.

The oracle of Omaha, who runs a company with a $72 billion stock portfolio, will hold forth on the economy at a 90-minute economic roundtable jointly hosted by Obama’s national finance chairwoman Penny Pritzker, adviser Valerie Jarrett, economic guru Austan Goolsbee and Illinois co-chairman John Rogers Jr. The roundtable will be held at the offices of Roger’s Ariel Capital Management.

Later, Buffett will be the main attraction at a private dinner given by Pritzker and her husband, Bryan Traubert, an ophthalmologist, and co-hosted by Jarrett. The price of admission is $28,500 - with contributions above the maximum individual $4,600 donation going to the Democratic National Committee.

Buffett has appeared at fund-raisers for both Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the past year, calling both good candidates. But last month, as the primaries wound down, he endorsed Obama saying, “I will be very happy if he is elected President. He is my choice.”

Buffet is no stranger to politics. His father, Howard Buffett, was a four-term Republican congressman from Nebraska known for strong, libertarian views - obviously, many not shared by his son.

Obama and Buffett first met at a lunch in Omaha in late 2004, at the suggestion of Buffett’s daughter Susan, who like her father is a modest giver to the Democratic party. The candidate and the investor have talked frequently since.

Obama recently told Fortune that he frequently calls Buffett on the phone (”one of my favorite people,” Obama said. “He’s just completely down-to-earth and as smart as they come”).

Buffett has advised several Democratic candidates, including Sen. John Kerry, during his 2004 presidential run. He has been a proponent of reforming the tax system so that the rich pay more, and urging policies to combat “stagflation,” the slowing in the U.S. economy while inflation accelerates.

Besides knowing Obama, Buffett has strong ties with the family of Penny Pritzker, one of Chicago’s richest. In a deal announced last Christmas, Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway agreed to pay $4.5 billion for 60 percent of Pritzker-owned Marmon Holdings, a conglomerate with about $7 billion in annual revenue.

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