Clinton, Obama in line for Buffett

and Monica Langley


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton aims to show she has the confidence of two of the nation's most respected finance figures as the economy eclipses Iraq as a key election issue.

The New York senator, leading the Democratic presidential field but hearing footsteps, held a "Conversation with Warren Buffett" Wednesday to discuss the economy with the legendary investor.

On Friday, Clinton will hold a fundraiser for 750 attendees in New York during which she will make her first public campaign appearance with Robert Rubin, who served as treasury secretary under Bill Clinton. Rubin, who returned to being a director at Citigroup Inc. yesterday after temporarily serving as chairman, will join Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in a discussion about the economy and foreign policy. Tickets for the event range from $1,000 to more than $25,000.

Buffett hasn't endorsed a candidate, but has said he is willing to throw his substantial fund-raising capabilities behind both Clinton and Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. Both candidates have been courting him, hoping that just as the markets follow his advice, so would voters.

"I told both of them that if they ran for president I'd support them, and here we are," Buffett said in an interview after the event.

Wednesday's Buffett event drew more than 1,500 attendees, including a mix of Silicon Valley executives such as John Doerr, a partner at venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield ers, philanthropist and founder of the Esprit clothing line Susie Tompkins Buell and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Tickets ranged from $100 to more than $2,300, drawing in about $1 million, according to the Clinton campaign. The New York event on Friday will bring in more than $1.75 million, according to the campaign.

As Obama enjoys the recent endorsement of celebrity and entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey, the Clinton campaign may become more aggressive in requesting Buffett's support.

Buffett, who heads Berkshire Hathaway Inc., Omaha, Neb., which operates more than 50 businesses, held an event for Clinton in New York in June that raised at least $1 million.

When Clinton was campaigning in Iowa a few months ago she asked Buffett's daughter, Susie Buffett, who is handling much of his political work, to ride in her motorcade.

Buffett says he doesn't have an event planned with Obama at this time.

Obama speaks frequently of the financial guru, invoking his name when he discusses the economy. "Warren Buffett is a dear friend and somebody I call frequently. He's proving to be an invaluable sounding board," Obama said recently.

At Wednesday's event, Clinton asked Buffett questions from the audience on topics including taxes, the depreciation of the U.S. dollar and whether new investment products such as derivatives and structured investment vehicles are safe investments.

Buffett criticized the Bush administration's tax policy, saying it has contributed to the growing gap between rich and poor. "The super-rich have been getting a huge break," Buffett said, "and it hasn't trickled down."

Clinton interspersed her own questions for Buffett with the audience's. Her first, "Warren Buffett, why are you a Democrat?" drew a standing ovation.

Buffett has long identified with Democratic causes and criticized the Bush administration's economic policies. He also has spoken favorably about the presidential prospects of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently left the Republican Party to become an independent, but has denied that he is planning to run.

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