Is Rahm Emanuel back in New York to raise money for his old boss, President Obama, from the same Wall Street fat cats the president loves to attack as he ramps up his re-election effort?
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His spokeswoman says no, he’s in town to take jobs out of New York and relocate them to Chicago, where he is currently mayor. But Wall Street executives say he’s an active Obama fundraiser -- particularly when it comes to bringing in Wall Street cash for the president’s 2012 re-election effort.
Whatever his exact reason, Emanuel, the president’s former chief of staff, caused a stir last night when he was seen pressing the fat-cat flesh at the high-end Manhattan restaurant Sistina.
People at the restaurant tell FOX Business that Emanuel was hanging out with a group of bankers and one of his chief economic advisers, hedge fund manager Michael Sacks; according to one person at the restaurant Emanuel was also heard openly deriding the Republican presidential field.
Meanwhile, according to the Chicago Sun Times, Emanuel’s trip to New York on Monday was not disclosed on his public schedule. This marks the second trip—on city business—in recent weeks that he has chosen not to disclose.
Wall Street executives tell FOX Business that Emanuel has been actively raising money for the president -- including holding a fundraiser last summer in New York City -- by tapping into his substantial Rolodex of Wall Street contacts.
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Before joining the White House, Emanuel was an investment banker at the firm Wasserstein Perella and was a board member of the failed mortgage giant Freddie Mac. As Obama’s chief of staff, Emanuel was often the point man between the administration and the big Wall Street banks.
Tarrah Cooper, a spokeswoman for Emanuel, tells FOX Business that her boss wasn’t in town to raise money for the president but instead to hold "a series of meetings with companies that are interested in growing and expanding in Chicago."
She declined to provide the names of the companies, adding that Sacks, the chief executive of Grosvenor Capital Management, serves in an unpaid position as Chicago’s chief corporate ambassador.
She also refused to say who picked up the dinner tab at Sistina, one of the city’s most expensive restaurants and a frequent dinner spot for the Wall Street elite.
FOX Business was first to report that a prominent Romney fundraiser, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, was recently spotted in another Manhattan restaurant talking politics with hedge fund giant Steve Cohen, who supported president Obama in 2008 but has switched sides as the 2012 election approaches.
So while it’s not usual for political candidates to woo Wall Street, president Obama’s Wall Street support has waned as he has increasingly assailed bankers on the campaign trail, and endorsed policies like the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that has squeezed profits.
So far in the 2012 election cycle, President Obama has raised $2.3 million from members of the securities industry, compared with $6.6 million raised by Mitt Romney, his chief Republican rival. The president, however, has out-raised Romney overall, pulling in more than $136 million in contributions, compared with $62 million for Romney.