Obama’s private-equity host Hamilton James predicted the Bain attack last year
It's been widely noted that the Obama re-election campaign released its first attack ad on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital the same day the president attended a fund-raiser at the home of Hamilton James, a top executive at Blackstone.
The timing is even funnier in light of James' prediction last year that "the Democrats" would run ads just like that one if Romney became the Republican nominee, and that those ads wouldn't be "right."
"I suspect that if Mitt Romney gets the Republican nomination it will get worse because I think his Achilles Heel—the Democrats will perceive that as 'attack him on private equity,' just like Teddy Kennedy did in Massachusetts, and I think they'll villainize the industry even further," James told CNBC back in September. "So I'm not sure it gets better, but it's not right."
He reiterated that concern to Bloomberg in February of this year.
“Pension funds have boards, they don’t want to be giving money to an industry that has a taint,” he said. “Similarly, boards of directors don’t want to sell their company to organizations they don’t view as respectable. So it could be very damaging for the industry.”
Interestingly, James appears to be a relatively recent convert to the president's cause.
In 2007, he contributed to the primary campaigns of Mitt Romney and John McCain, according to the F.E.C. website, and gave two more donations to McCain's campaign in June of 2008. He gave $28,500 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that year, but did not contribute to either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.
His first contributions to Obama came in November of 2011, two months after he predicted Democrats' attacks on private equity.
UPDATE: A spokesman for Blackstone said James was unavailable to talk about his support for the president, but emailed James' prepared remarks introducing the president last night (only part of which made it into the White House pool report):
It is indeed an honor for Amie and me to host President Obama here in our home. I want to thank all of you for supporting this event and for making what I know is a substantial financial contribution to the President’s re- election. In particular, I know many of you are here tonight as a favor to me, and for that I am personally very grateful.
Many of us are involved in the financial world. And one of the great things about financial markets is that people from any background can not only succeed, but can do so beyond their wildest dreams. Capital markets are impartial. They let ability and hard work shine through without artificial barriers or biases. And like your success, Mr. President, I think that this represents one of the great aspects of America.
A belief that anyone can move up and that the best is ahead of us is what defines Americans. It gives us cohesion as a nation despite all the different ethnic and national backgrounds from which we are drawn. It drives our growth, our willingness to try new things. It is what gives us the confidence to spend and to invest in the future. It is core not just to our psyches, but to our economic health as well.
So I was alarmed to learn recently that, for the first time in history, a majority of Americas think the future will be worse than the past. They think their children will be less well off than they are. If this attitude becomes prevalent and entrenched, it will be devastating for the country.
Despite 15 years of economic growth, over half of our population is worse off than they were 15 years ago. Disenfranchising large swathes of our population is not just wrong; it is dangerous. It puts in jeopardy the system that all of us have found so beneficial. We will not have a stable country if a majority of Americans struggle to fulfill their basic needs and believe the future holds no promise.
We need to rebalance the system and unite our country to deal with our serious longer terms issues.. This will require a delicate balance, where all parts of society make sacrifices. We should have leadership that looks forward to find new solutions, not leadership which is unwilling to compromise and trying to turn the clock backwards. I believe we have just such a leader in President Obama. And we’re privileged and honored to have him here with us tonight.
Please join me in welcoming President Obama.