Warren Buffett to headline $28,500-per-person “private dinner” for Obama at finance chair Penny Prizker home; senior advisor Valerie Jarrett a host.

SHARE Warren Buffett to headline $28,500-per-person “private dinner” for Obama at finance chair Penny Prizker home; senior advisor Valerie Jarrett a host.

WASHINGTON–Superinvestor Warren Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway–who with his daughter Susan early on spotted presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as a comer– will headline a $28,500-per-person fund-raiser (to raise or give) July 2 at the Chicago home of Obama finance chair Penny Pritzker. Sharing host duties will be Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett.

FOOTNOTE: In a Dec. 4, 2004, column, I wrote about how Obama took a secretive flight to visit Buffett, urging Obama to be more open and transparent when he travels on government or political business. Since then, Obama has embraced transparency as a central plank of his candidacy. Obama a few weeks ago opened all his fund-raisers to at least a pool reporter and rival Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), under pressure, caved and last week opened what had been closed fund-raisers to the press.

Obama has evolved on transparency. Excerpt from my 2004 column, written just after he was elected to the Senate but not yet sworn in….

Obama continues, as I’ve noted in past columns, to not see much point in transparency about his activities; this was true during the campaign and remains so in the transition period before he is sworn into the Senate next month. I think Obama should be open and not secretive when he travels on government or political business.

click below for entire 2004 column, where Obama also talks about all the hype surrounding him….

December 6, 2004 Monday

Takes secretive flight to visit Buffett

BYLINE: Lynn Sweet

A week ago today, Sen.-elect Barack Obama (D-Ill.) chartered an airplane and flew to Omaha, Neb., to lunch with billionaire Warren Buffett and his daughter Susan, who donated $1,000 to Obama last August.

Obama would rather you not know about his meal with Buffett and his daughter. It is none of your business to know that Obama went to some effort to meet with Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, who is one of the most influential business executives in the country. Or that the meeting was arranged at the suggestion of a well-connected donor.

I can’t understand why someone who is one of the most popular political figures in the country, who is the author of a best-selling book and who even has his autograph on sale on eBay, does not want to operate in the sunlight.

Obama continues, as I’ve noted in past columns, to not see much point in transparency about his activities; this was true during the campaign and remains so in the transition period before he is sworn into the Senate next month. I think Obama should be open and not secretive when he travels on government or political business.

Perhaps Obama or members of his staff are worried about his image.

Obama’s campaign arranged for and paid for the plane, according to spokesman Robert Gibbs. Obama traveled by private plane because it made the trip easier to work with his schedule, said Gibbs.

Charter travel certainly does save time. But it is hardly a man-of-the-people touch. Most of us have no choice but to fly commercial. And most of us do not have a campaign fund to pay for a charter.

Yes, flying a charter to lunch with Buffett may not play in Peoria.

Obama met with Buffett at the suggestion of Susan Buffett, who, like her father, is a frequent, but relatively modest Democratic donor. She mentioned Obama to her father and he was interested in meeting him, according to Gibbs.

Gibbs said the Omaha trip was not put on any schedule for Obama because it was not a public event.” He said he thought they may have discussed tax and Social Security reform.

Later this month, Obama heads to his native Hawaii for a Democratic fund-raiser, to visit the Punahou School, where he graduated in 1979, and to see family. Tonight, he speaks to the Economic Club in Chicago.

********** ***************** *******************

Democrat Obama and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, both rising stars in their parties, keynoted Saturday’s winter Gridiron Club dinner in Washington. Each used heavy doses of self-deprecating humor before the black-tie gathering of journalists. (Disclosure: I am in the club. )

Both men are mentioned as possible 2008 contenders, and that provided much grist for their respective funny shticks. Obama and Romney, the dueling stars, were very, very good. Romney was better, mainly because he also sang (a ditty to the tune of “Charley and the MTA”) and he came with a witty visual presentation.

Romney had a few zingers aimed at Obama.Obama,he said, is not seeking the limelight” after all. Obama has said that again and again”– then Romney named some of the many national shows Obama has been on just in the past few weeks.

Obama,who went on first, said everything changed for him after he keynoted the Democratic convention.

It’s like I was shot out of a cannon. I am so overexposed, I make Paris Hilton look like a recluse. “After all the attention — People magazine, GQ, Vanity Fair, Letterman — I figure there’s nowhere to go from here but down. So tonight, I announce my retirement from the United States Senate. I had a good run.”

He said he was not letting all the attention go to his head. He joked that he was hanging out with Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson at a Los Angeles restaurant when Barbra Steisand called him on his cell phone. And he counseled her, you can’t just get caught up in the hype.”

Of course, all the hype, said Obama, generates wacky tabloid coverage.” And with that he hoisted a poster, a mock cover of the National Enquirer with the headline: Obama’s shocking secret. He’s Strom Thurmond’s love child.”

It is tough, kidded Obama,to live up to all the expectations. There are people in Kenya, his father’s homeland, who expect his election to mean the United States will fund new roads, new bridges and new schools.

Joked Obama, “I had to explain to them how it works. First comes the invasion, and then billions in aid.”

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