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Chicago hedge fund manager switches from 2008 Obama fan to Romney backer

Hedge-fund manager Marc Lasry founder Avenue Capital Group left listens as Kenneth Grifffounder chief executive officer Citadel Investment Group Inc.

Hedge-fund manager Marc Lasry, founder of Avenue Capital Group, left, listens as Kenneth Griffin, founder and chief executive officer of Citadel Investment Group Inc., speaks during the 2010 Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Monday, April 26, 2010. This year's conference is titled "Shaping the Future" and runs until April 28. Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Marc Lasry; Kenneth Griffin

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Recent political donations to pro-Romney SuperPACs by Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin

† $700,000 March 28 to American Crossroads

† $850,000 March 26 to Restore Our Future

† $100,000 Feb. 9 to Restore Our Future

† $100,000 Dec. 15 to Restore Our Future

† $300,000 Aug. 1, 2011 to American Crossroads


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Updated: July 16, 2012 6:42AM

Four years ago, hedge fund manager Ken Griffin was impressed enough with Barack Obama that he invited him to speak to his employees and helped raise $50,000 to $100,000 for his presidential run. Griffin also hedged his bets by raising a similar amount for Republican John McCain.

But this year, Griffin — ranked by Forbes as Chicago’s fifth-richest man — and his wife Anne, a French-born hedge fund manager herself, are all in with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, telling friends and interviewers they think Romney will better manage the economy.

They co-sponsored a $3.3 million fund-raiser on Obama’s home turf at the Pump Room Thursday night and have emerged as among the nation’s most generous donors to pro-Romney or anti-Obama SuperPACs.

“There are a number of Barack Obama fund-raiser types from four years ago that have come over now to help with Mitt Romney,” Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford said outside the Pump Room fund-raiser for Romney Thursday. “We’ve had time to see what an Obama White House would be, and it’s not quite what some people thought it would be. People see Romney and say, ‘Here’s a businessman who’s got experience’ … I think we’re finding a number of people willing to pony up.”

Inside the fund-raiser, Romney told those who had ponied up between $2,500 and $75,000, “The American people, whether they like [Obama] or don’t like him, recognize he’s over his head, and it’s time to put into the White House somebody who knows how to get this economy going, and I do, and I will.”

Griffin gave more than $1 million to Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney SuperPAC, since last December. The Griffins have given another $1 million to American Crossroads, Karl Rove’s GOP-allied SuperPAC, since last August. They have given to the Koch Brothers’s Americans for Prosperity.

Griffin donated $450,000 to Republican Bill Brady’s campaign for governor two years ago. He gave $200,000 to Rahm Emanuel’s campaign for mayor and more to the Stand for Children campaign to reform education.

Griffin, 43, was a wunderkind raised in Florida who began his investment success as a Harvard undergrad teenager before forming Citadel Investments, according to a Chicago Magazine profile. He raised eyebrows earlier this year when he told the Chicago Tribune the nation’s wealthiest people had “insufficient influence” on politics and government.

“It is critical that the next president appreciates that America’s prosperity is driven by the innovation and hard work of the American worker, whose valiant efforts have, in recent years, been undermined by the oppressive weight of government intervention,” Griffin told Politico.

“Mitt Romney understands that the private sector is the source of economic growth and job creation … His ideas can help get America’s economy moving again and start putting people back to work,” Griffin told Bloomberg.

Another co-sponsor of Thursday’s event was Susan Crown, whose brother, James, hosted a fund-raising dinner for Obama a few weeks ago. Her father, Lester Crown was also an early Obama supporter.

Also attending Thursday was Jimmy John’s sandwich empire founder Jimmy John Liautuad. He drove up to the Pump Room in a muzzler-deficient rusted-thru mint green Chevrolet … well it was a couple of different makes put together. Liautuad proudly announced he had driven up from Champaign in the car with his wife, Leslie. Unfortunately the car would not move from State Parkway after he parked it.

Noting he has hosted Romney at his Champaign home and been elected a delegate for Romney to the national convention, Liautuad said of Romney, “He’s experienced, he’s disciplined, he’s done it before, and he’s the right guy for the job.”

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