October 2, 2011, 9:36 pmLegal/Regulatory [h=1]Others Go, but Buffett Stays on Presidents Side[/h] By SUSANNE CRAIG and BEN PROTESSKevin Lamarque/ReutersIn February, Warren E. Buffett was among those who received a Medal of Freedom from President Obama at the White House. When it comes to business, everyone on Wall Street wants a piece of Warren E. Buffett. His presidential politics, however, appear to be another matter altogether. On Friday evening, Mr. Buffett was the host of a fund-raiser for President Obama at the Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan, typically a magnet for the whos who of finance. Democrats had bet that the star power of one of the worlds richest men would draw an overflow crowd of Wall Streets elite for an affair that ran $10,000 a plate, or $35,800 for one-on-one time with Mr. Buffett. [h=4]Article Tools[/h] E-mail This Print 37 Comments Recommend Share Tumblr Digg Linkedin Reddit Permalink Twitter Yet organizers had trouble drawing the biggest guns of finance. The presidents campaign reserved space for 130 guests but only 116 (including Democratic staff members) attended, according to people with knowledge of the matter but not authorized to speak on the record. And there were few marquee names on the guest list. James Chanos, the hedge fund executive, was among the better known of those who attended. The event which included on the menu some of Mr. Buffetts favorites, like Cherry Coke and Dairy Queen ice cream was considered a sell-out success by the Obama campaign. It easily raised more than $1.5 million for the campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Still, the turnout, strong but less than overwhelming, reflected the presidents broader struggles in attracting big-name support from those on Wall Street, whom he referred to as fat cat bankers in 2009. One person who attended described the atmosphere as subdued and said the event seemed to attract more Buffett followers than Obama supporters. Mr. Buffett, a major investor in many of the nations biggest banks, remains undeterred. As others in business have moved to distance themselves from Mr. Obama, Mr. Buffett has found himself in a lonely role as the presidents ambassador among the moneyed set. He is endorsing not just Mr. Obama but also a policy like the so-called Buffett rule, which would increase taxes on the rich, as well as the view that America is exiting, not re-entering, a recession. I have always had people disagree with me on politics, Mr. Buffett said in an interview. You can go through life and just basically opt out of that field. I dont blame anyone particularly, but I dont want to do that. If I have views I will talk about them. Mr. Buffetts more public embrace of Mr. Obama has cast a spotlight on this unlikely alliance between the Omaha-born son of a stockbroker turned Republican congressman and Mr. Obama, the Harvard-educated lawyer who forged his political career in Chicago. Mr. Buffett said he first met Mr. Obama roughly six years ago, at a lunch arranged by the billionaires daughter, Susie. The pair broke bread at Kiewit Plaza in Omaha, where Mr. Buffetts company, Berkshire Hathaway, is situated. At the time, Mr. Obama was only months into his freshman term in the Senate. Mr. Buffett spotted a rising star, prophetically telling The Chicago Tribune in 2005 that Mr. Obama has as much potential as anyone Ive seen to have an important impact over his lifetime on the course that America takes. Another presidential hopeful, Hillary Rodham Clinton, also impressed Mr. Buffett. I didnt think both of them would run, he recalled in the interview with The New York Times. During the contentious 2008 campaign, he lent his name and wallet to both candidates. In 2007, he headlined an event for Ms. Clinton in New York and another for Mr. Obama in Omaha. [h=4]Article Tools[/h] E-mail This Print 37 Comments Recommend Share Tumblr Digg Linkedin Reddit Permalink As president, Mr. Obama has been known to tap Mr. Buffett for advice on the economy. In July 2010, during a meeting at the White House, Mr. Buffett even got a new tie. Mr. Buffett said he wore a tie that looked like it had gone through a lawn mower. Mr. Obama, noticing its condition, gave Mr. Buffett a new tie, replete with presidential seals. A few weeks later, Mr. Buffett was back at the White House for a meeting that was also attended by Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft and an old friend of Mr. Buffett. Mr. Obama was quick to compliment Mr. Buffett, saying he was looking sharper, according to Mr. Buffett. Mr. Buffett laughed and pointed to Mr. Gates, who was wearing the old tie. Mr. Obama went and got a new tie with presidential seals on it for Mr. Gates. This tie is very useful, Mr. Buffett said of the frayed tie he now keeps in reserve in his closet for friends who may be visiting the White House. This summer, Mr. Obama called Mr. Buffett from his vacation on Marthas Vineyard to discuss ways to spur the economy. And after Mr. Buffett wrote an Op-Ed article for The New York Times, saying that politicians should stop coddling the mega-rich, the White House introduced plans to raise taxes for the wealthy. Still, Mr. Buffett cautions against reading too much into the relationship. We are not at all close, he said. He estimates he has talked to Mr. Obama one-on-one just a handful of times, and no call has lasted more than about eight minutes. Mr. Buffett does not remember ever making a call to Mr. Obama. And Mr. Buffett does not personally solicit donations for the re-election campaign. Mr. Buffett did agree to headline two fund-raisers for the president. The next one is scheduled for late October at the Chicago-area home of Byron Trott, a former Goldman Sachs executive known as Buffetts favorite banker. The fund-raisers are the Obama campaigns latest efforts to restore the presidents relationship with Wall Street once a heavy-hitting donor base. Earlier this year, Mr. Obama dined with financial executives at the opulent Upper East Side restaurant Daniel. The president also counts several bankers among his friends and fund-raisers, including Robert Wolf, the president of UBSs investment bank. But the campaign has received a tepid response from other deep-pocketed donors on Wall Street, some of whom have shunned the presidents push for regulation and his talk about lavish bonuses. The nations biggest banks, which cut many large checks for Mr. Obamas 2008 run, are mainly on the sidelines for now. In the last election, people were tripping over themselves to get on the Obama bandwagon, said Michael J. Driscoll, a former senior trader at the Wall Street firm Bear Stearns who now teaches at Adelphi University. Things have changed; Wall Street is not happy being under attack by the administration. Republican candidates hope to lure away Wall Streets money. Last week, the Republican contender Mitt Romney, a former private equity executive, met privately with JPMorgan Chases chief, Jamie Dimon, once a big-name supporter of Mr. Obama. Mr. Dimon has not yet endorsed any candidate. Anthony Scaramucci, a hedge fund manager who previously donated to Mr. Obama, has shifted allegiance to Mr. Romney. Mr. Buffett said he was not surprised that Wall Streets sentiment had shifted so much against the president. People need to face up to the countrys problems. Once what you start pointing and explaining what your part is in it, you start losing a few people, he said, laughing. Still, he says he believes Mr. Obama will win the next election, and may even get some help from an improving economy, an idea that goes against the view of many in America. We are coming out of this one, I am virtually certain, Mr. Buffett said. I see figures on 70-some companies daily. I have a lot of information coming in and basically everything to do with home construction is as bad as it has ever been, and everything else is getting better.