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Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt was a freqeuent White House visitor, as was Google Director of Climate and Energy Dan Reicher, who was considered for a post in the Obama administration. Talk about their role in the clean energy arena.
It is very interesting if you look at the history of Barack Obama's presidential campaign which started in 2006. But in 2007 really he had a couple of key breakthroughs as far as getting big money behind him. One was on Wall Street where Robert Rubin from Citigroup really got behind him and said, 'this is a serious guy that we should look to.' This is even though Rubin was a Hillary Clinton supporter. But he sort of gave his approval so to speak.
The other one was in Silicon Valley, a very famous meeting that Eric Schmidt had with Barack Obama where he essentially said, 'this is a guy of substance and a guy we should be working with.' Well most politicians don't remember the 150th high powered guy that backed their campaign, they remember the first, second, third, fourth and fifth and Eric Schmidt was one of those early supporters of Obama and really pumped his stock up so to speak in Silicon Valley where [the Obama campaign] raised extraordinary amounts of money.
That is very, very important. I think this is one of the reasons, by the way, that you see executives often times give to both political parties, or they support several different candidates within one party in a primary because for them in a way it is less about ideology. It is more about a business investment, the idea or the notion that you basically are looking at this as an opportunity to create market share and profitability for your company.
Talk about Warren Buffett's lobbying for the $840 billion in stimulus funding and the economic benefits that it brought to him and Berkshire Hathaway focusing on some of the details in the book including the fact that Hathaway firms received $95 billion in bailout cash from the TARP funding along with his investment in Goldman Sachs, which received TARP money and $130 billion in FDIC backing for their debt.
I think that Warren Buffett is an example of a guy who has recognized the value of public imagery. And the public imagery that we have of Warren Buffett is the guy that owns Dairy Queen and lives in Omaha, Nebraska, but the reality is that his interest in politics has a lot more to do with recognizing that having political connections is part of the equation. And if you look at some of the past reports of Berkshire Hathaway you'll see that he talks openly about a public private partnership. And that is part of the reason, he is investing more and more, for example, in the railroads because he sees a consistency in getting government contracts and in getting government money rather than relying on private sector dollars for projects. And to my mind that is not a good thing. And again to me it is no surprise that he is somebody who has a very strong relationship with the current administration and his firms have benefited handsomely from the policies that have been implemented. And the timing of his transactions relate very much to the government actions.
You mention Buffett's purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad which after Buffett bought it increased its money spent on lobbyists from $1.2 million in 2008 to $9.8 million by 2009. Talk about that lobbying investment and the payoff for Buffett.
Lobbying is key because when it came to the stimulus in 2009, a lot of the lines had yet to be filled in, and they were filled in by lobbyists and by officials. So it was not only a question of the money to be spent but how the money was going to be spent and on what specific areas it was going to be spent. And he recognized very early on that with the talk about high speed rail, with the talk about mass transit and energy efficiency it was key to make sure that they knew how that money was going to be spent and what the projects were going to be. So he made a big commitment in hiring lobbyists to do so. And to my mind again I think that is what a business man does, but I wish it was much more focused on what you might call defensive lobbying protecting the interests of his company rather than trying to raid the Federal Treasury to pad his corporate bottom line