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Sweet: Obama donors enjoy prime perks at inaugural festivities

Vicki Heyman left ObamCampaign Illinois Finance Co-Chair her husbBruce Presidential InauguratiMonday January 21 2013. | Lynn Sweet~Sun-Times

Vicki Heyman, left, Obama Campaign Illinois Finance Co-Chair and her husband Bruce at the Presidential Inauguration, Monday, January 21, 2013. | Lynn Sweet~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 23, 2013 6:38AM



WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama would not be starting his second term if it were not for his major donors, and they were here en masse — to map strategy to advance Obama’s agenda and to take in some of the VIP perks, including a coveted invite to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s late-night party.

Chicagoans from the beginning have played key roles in bankrolling the Obama political operation. One of them Alan Solow, was a national campaign co-chair.

Solow — and other top fund-raisers — viewed the inauguration from seats close to the stage, reserved for members of Obama’s National Finance Committee. Other Chicagoans nearby were Obama 2012 Illinois Finance Co-Chair Vicki Heymann and her husband, Bruce; Wally Brewster and his partner, Bobby Satawake; and William Mahoney and his wife, Amalia.

“There is a lot of work yet to be done,” Solow said. “And I think part of it will be to build on the success we have had in the first term.”

Toward that end, there was a daylong “road ahead” meeting Saturday with briefings on the Obama team’s new political operation: the non-profit Organizing for Action, based in Chicago with offices in Washington, is sure to be another ask from the Obama fund-raisers.

Obama’s National Finance Committee members were hosted at White House receptions on Thursday and Friday and had access to a variety of other VIP inauguration events.

Obama 2012 campaign Illinois finance co-chair John Rogers — who was also a donor to the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) — was at one of the White House receptions.

Chicago business executive Fred Eychaner was one of the very top Obama campaign donors, also boosting the Obama-allied SuperPAC (as did Rogers) and donating to the PIC. Other Chicago area PIC donors included Penny Pritzker, Obama’s 2008 finance chair, Laura Ricketts and Michael Sacks.

Emanuel’s longtime fund-raiser, Anne Olaimey, helped raise corporate money for the PIC; veteran Obama fund-raiser Jordan Kaplan handled the Chicago-area contributors — some of whom he has been dealing with since Obama was a senator.

The PIC organizers put together perk “packages” for their donors, including invites to a reception at the National Building Museum and reserved seats on the parade routes. The “Premium Partner Access” package was priced at $250,000 for an individual and $1 million for an institution —such as a corporation or labor union.

David Rosen runs a Chicago events company where he has carved out a particular niche for Democratic political causes: “I help VIP hospitality,” Rosen told me on Monday.

Part of his role as a faciliator is to also score invites for donors to one of the very many other elite parties — none part of the official PIC — taking place these past days.

One of those hot tickets was for Emanuel’s late night party — 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. at a downtown club here.

Emanuel’s party is underwritten by donors, whose identities have not been disclosed. Rosen said he was one of the contributors.



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