Obama Foundation burst of fundraising: New donors revealed

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The Barack Obama Foundation, responsible for planning and funding the Obama presidential library, released a complete list of donors on Thursday. | AP file photo

WASHINGTON — The Chicago-based Barack Obama Foundation, responsible for planning and funding the Obama presidential library and museum, raised at least $2.9 million and maybe as much as $6.2 million in 2014, the organization disclosed on Thursday.

There is more money in the pipeline: I have learned that the board of the Joyce Foundation, headquartered in Chicago, has pledged $1 million over three years to the Obama foundation, with the first payment delivered in 2014.


“The Joyce Foundation is proud to support establishment of the Obama Presidential Library as a valuable asset to our nation in advancing innovative social and public policies,” Joyce President Ellen Alberding told me in an email.

The Obama foundation, a year old on Jan. 31, took in most of its 2014 cash in the last quarter of the year in a burst of fundraising.

The foundation is led by Obama pal Marty Nesbitt, co-CEO of The Vistria Group, a private equity firm. Nesbitt contributed, with his wife, Dr. Anita Blanchard, somewhere between $200 and $100,000, according to the foundation.

If you think that is a ridiculous range, you are right.

While the foundation gets credit for voluntarily disclosing its donors, it is using an insane system for doing so.

The individual deep-pocket donors are all part of the Obama money network. They either raised massive amounts for his campaigns or contributed to the super PAC that helped him win re-election in 2012.

The very top individual 2014 donors are from Chicago: Fred Eychaner and Cari and Michael Sacks. Eychaner contributed between $500,001 and $1 million and so did the Sacks.

Eychaner, the Newsweb executive, is one the top Democratic donors in the nation.

Michael Sacks is the CEO of Chicago-based Grosvenor Capital Management. He also is vice chairman of the World Business Chicago board and a board member at Wrapports, the parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Cari Sacks was tapped by Obama in 2010 to be a member of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Other donors:

$250,001 to $500,000

Sonya and Tom Campion, a Seattle apparel company executive

Tim Collins, a New York investment executive

The Joyce Foundation, where Alberding’s husband, Kelly Welsh, is the general counsel for Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

Scott Miller and Tim Gill, the founder of Quark Inc.

Ian Simmons through ImpactAssets Donor Advised Fund, where Simmons’ wife, former Chicagoan Liesel Pritzker Simmons (and Penny Pritzker cousin) is on the fund board.

Marilyn and Jim Simons, listed by Forbes as one of the world’s richest men. He is the founder of Renaissance Technologies Corp.

Lise Strickler and Mark Gallogly, the managing partner of Centerbridge Partners in New York. He is on the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School. Columbia University is one of the bidders for the library.

$100,001 to $250,000

Beth and David Shaw, a hedge fund manager

Carol and Robert Wolf, a hedge fund executive

$200 to $100,000

Jeanne and John Kevin Poorman through their JKP Family Foundation.

Kevin Poorman is one of the four Obama foundation board members.

The other board members are former Obama White House adviser and campaign manager David Plouffe and Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama’s half-sister, based in Hawaii.

The University of Chicago, Columbia, the University of Hawaii and the University of Illinois at Chicago submitted bids for the project on Dec. 11.

The foundation is responsible for eventually raising hundreds of millions of dollars to build and create an endowment for the library and museum.

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