Barack Obama and Wall Street Cash

This article appeared yesterday in the Financial Times and deals with Barack Obama's push to compete with Hillary Clinton in fundraising. And so far, he is doing well. It also looks at the issue of Barack Obama's investments, as detailed by the New York Times 2 days ago.

Obama takes on Clinton for Wall Street cash
By Ben White in New York and Edward Luce in Washington

Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential hopeful, has assembled a powerful New York fundraising machine that is posing a challenge to New York Senator Hillary Clinton's position as the dominant Democratic fundraiser on Wall Street.

Mr Obama has lined up several prominent financiers to raise cash for his presidential bid, including Eric Mindich, the former Goldman Sachs executive who founded Eton Park, the $4bn (€3bn, £2bn) hedge fund. This week Mr Obama raised money at a well-attended breakfast at Credit Suisse hosted by Steve Koch, a prominent Credit Suisse banker from Chicago.

Mr Obama has two New York fundraising events planned for tomorrow, a $2,300 per person gala for donors followed by a $100 per person event billed as "late night" with Barack Obama for younger professionals.

The Illinois senator's push is significant because analysts say if he even comes close to matching Mrs Clinton's fundraising strength in her home state it could lift his campaign. In order to maintain her momentum, Mrs Clinton needs to have raised significantly more than Mr Obama and former North Carolina senator John Edwards when figures for first-quarter fundraising are released next month. However, prominent donors suggest that Mrs Clinton is still on course to break all records for fundraising at this stage in a presidential campaign.

"I have never seen it as intense as this," said a long-standing Clinton fundraiser in Washington. "They are tapping everybody they can possibly think of: Hillary is visiting every major US city before the end of March. The pressure is intense."

Mrs Clinton is hosting a dinner at the New York Sheraton on March 18 at which 320 "bundlers" - -volunteers who have agreed to raise money from others up to the maximum legal limit of $4,600 per person - will attend. The event could raise at least $3m. Last month Mr Obama raised $1.3m at a Hollywood event, his largest taking so far.

In addition, Bill Clinton is hosting five "intimate gatherings" for his wife's campaign in New York in the next two weeks. Mr Clinton has fronted Mrs Clinton's campaign to raise $1m a week from internet donations. The former first lady has set an overall fundraising target of $15m by the end of this month.

"The March 31 deadline will be the first big test for all of the presidential candidates in the so-called 'money primary'," said Dennis Cheng, Mrs Clinton's New York campaign finance director in an e-mail to supporters this week. "We need your help to ensure that Hillary has a strong and impressive showing."

Mr Obama's campaign team has denied any impropriety in the senator's financial dealings following an article in yesterday's New York Times that detailed Mr Obama's investments in companies run by people who had donated to his political action committee, "Hope-fund". Although Mr Obama set up a blind trust in early 2005 to avoid potential conflicts of interest and although he lost $13,000 in one of the investments and gained only $2,000 from the second, the paper raised questions about how he could "unwittingly invest in two relatively obscure companies whose backers happen to include generous contributors [to his 2004 Senate campaign]".

Mr Obama's office yesterday issued a detailed response to the article and said "his dealings were completely above board". John McCain, a leading Republican candidate, told ABC News: "Senator Obama is a very honest and fine person from everything I have known about him."

Mr Obama also enjoys support from private equity executive Jamie Rubin, son of former Treasury secretary Bob Rubin, and from billionaire investor George Soros who, in an interview with the Financial Times, this week called the senator a "transformational figure" with a "fresh voice" able to help the US move beyond a period of bitter partisanship.