Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Rahm’s ‘Aggressive’ Fundraising, Murdoch-Trib Rumors, Durbin Cabinet Questions

Carol Felsenthal rounds up Chicago-related items in this week’s politics news

Following the ins and outs of politics and media is fascinating because they are endlessly tangled with subplots and characters—increasingly in the Obama administration, Chicago characters. Below are the political stories that caught my eye in the past few days:

+ Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave up the title of co-chair of the Obama campaign in exchange for the job of raising money for Democratic SuperPACS, which have been “severely,” as Mitt Romney might say, outraised by their Republican counterparts. Things have improved since Rahm (and Bill Clinton) got involved, and, according to the New York Times, Priorities USA Action raised $15.2 million in September. Fundraising, the Times reports, was “aggressive,” a word that, overall, is the best and safest adjective to link to Rahm’s name.

+ As the absurdly long presidential race winds down, there are many reports of intense jockeying for cabinet positions. Senator Dick Durbin’s name pops up in stories that he might retire from Congress and take a position in Obama’s second-term cabinet (Commerce? Transportation?). On the Republican side, the name of Chicago attorney Richard Williamson, foreign policy wonk for three Republican administrations—among his positions, Special Envoy to Sudan, ambassador to the UN Commission for Human Rights is often mentioned—not as secretary of state (he’s not yet of that stature), but as National Security Advisor.

+ Not quite on the cabinet level, but a super-power job in any administration, Barack and Michelle Obama intimate Valerie Jarrett is occasionally mentioned as a possible chief-of-staff in a second Obama term. The recipient of some of the worst press of the Obama administration, seen by some as deficient in management skills, the ruffler of many feathers of many big birds, Jarrett is a long shot. Still, the Obamas adore her—and she them—and that position, unlike cabinet jobs, does not require Senate confirmation.  (Also Jarrett missed out on getting the appointment to Obama’s Senate seat, and, like a good soldier, stayed in the White House to serve the First Couple.)

+ Recent reports in the Chicago Tribune have Rupert Murdoch pondering buying the Tribune and the Los Angeles Times as the Tribune Company emerges from bankruptcy. (The rumor mill kept churning when Murdoch, who denied any intent to acquire the papers, showed up recently in Chicago.) Another name mentioned as a buyer of the Los Angeles Times specifically is investment banker, venture capitalist, and former Los Angeles deputy mayor Austin Beutner. (If the papers get sold as a pair, he might find himself owning the Tribune as well.) The name sounded familiar and that’s because he was one of the people I interviewed when I was writing a profile of Bill Daley. In the wake of the 2000 Gore campaign and recount debacles, both headed by Daley, and before he went to work for SBC, Daley worked briefly (about six months) in New York for Beutner’s Evercore Capital Partners with the title vice chairman. The plan was for him to open a Chicago office, but it never happened. In a late August 2004 telephone interview, Beutner spoke highly of Daley, telling me he wished Daley had stayed at Evercore 10 years, and reminisced about going with Daley to Knicks and Rangers games and to the U.S. Open. (Daley remained on Evercore’s board after decamping for SBC.) Any possibility that a Daley or two—Bill, even his older brother Rich—could eventually be involved in the acquisition of the city’s biggest newspaper?


2 years ago
Posted by pol&pers

Valerie Jarrett is not helpful politically or administratively. She is in the White House on the basis of friendship, not competence. I am an Obama supporter but am so disappointed that he relies on her as the main White House adviser. I was amazed when it first came out four years ago that she was a potential Senate appointee. Obama's administration has suffered by having people who "adore" him giving him counsel.

PS to Web Admin: why must I always submit twice for a comment to be accepted?

2 years ago
Posted by pol&pers

I just read this and have a somewhat better opinion of Jarrett as a result. I worked on a presidential campaign once and my boss cautioned to never work in the White House, and if I did, to keep my back against the wall. I still think it's unwise to have a close personal friend with a high-level appointment. When I read four years ago that Valerie and Marty were looking over the new president's schedule to make sure one of them was with him each weekend, it set off alarm bells. Every president has friends on the payroll but not in this kind of strategic role.

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