Why do billionaires feel victimized by Obama?
One night last May, some twenty financiers and politicians met for dinner in the Tuscany private dining room at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. The eight-course meal included blinis with caviar; a fennel, grapefruit, and pomegranate salad; cocoa-encrusted beef tenderloin; and blue-cheese panna cotta. The richest man in the room was Leon Cooperman, a Bronx-born, sixty-nine-year-old billionaire. Cooperman is the founder of a hedge fund called Omega Advisors, but he has gained notice beyond Wall Street over the past year for his outspoken criticism of President Obama. Cooperman formalized his critique in a letter to the President late last year which was widely circulated in the business community; in an interview and in a speech, he has gone so far as to draw a parallel between Obama’s election and the rise of the Third Reich.The dinner was the highlight of the fourth annual SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, known as SALT, a convention orchestrated by the fund manager Anthony Scaramucci; it brings together fund managers with brand-name speakers and journalists for four days of talking and partying. The star guest at the dinner was Al Gore, who was flanked by Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, and the New York hedge-fund investor Orin Kramer, a friend of Gore’s and a top Obama fund-raiser.
Discussion that night was wide-ranging. The group talked about Apple, on whose board Gore sits, and Google, where Gore is a senior adviser, as well as climate change and energy policy. The most electric moment of the evening, though, was an exchange between Cooperman and Gore. Heavyset, with a lumbering gait, Cooperman does not look like a hedge-fund plutocrat: Scaramucci affectionately describes him as “the worst-dressed billionaire on planet earth.” Cooperman’s business model isn’t flashy, either. He began his finance career as an analyst of consumer companies at Goldman Sachs, and went on to make his fortune at Omega as a traditional stock-picker. He searches for companies that are cheap and which he hopes to sell when they become dear. (In 1998, Cooperman made a foray into emerging markets, investing more than a hundred million dollars as part of a bid to take over Azerbaijan’s state oil company, but it went badly wrong. His firm lost most of its money and paid five hundred thousand dollars to settle a U.S.-government bribery investigation.) Cooperman had come to the dinner to give Gore a copy of the letter he’d written to President Obama. “I’d like you to read this,” he told the former Vice-President. “You owe me a small favor. I voted for you,” he said, referring to Gore’s Presidential run, in 2000.
In the letter, Cooperman argued that Obama has needlessly antagonized the rich by making comments that are hostile to economic success. The prose, rife with compound metaphors and righteous indignation, is a good reflection of Cooperman’s table talk. “The divisive, polarizing tone of your rhetoric is cleaving a widening gulf, at this point as much visceral as philosophical, between the downtrodden and those best positioned to help them,” Cooperman wrote. “It is a gulf that is at once counterproductive and freighted with dangerous historical precedents.”
At the dinner, Al Gore was diplomatic when presented with the letter, and asked Cooperman if he would accept higher taxes. Cooperman said that he would—if he was treated with respect, and the government didn’t squander his money. Cooperman asked Gore what he thought the top marginal tax rate should be. Gore’s reply was noncommittal, but he pleased the group by suggesting that no matter who wins in November the victor should surround himself with advisers with experience in the private sector.
Kramer, the hedge-fund manager and Obama fund-raiser, was quiet, but others in the room were enthusiastic. Villaraigosa gave Cooperman his direct phone number. Barry Sternlicht, the founder of the W hotel chain, and an Obama donor in 2008, said that he agreed totally with Cooperman. Scaramucci, the organizer of the dinner, told me the next day that the guests had witnessed the “activation” of a “sleeper cell” of hedge-fund managers against Obama. “That’s what you see happening in the hedge-fund community, because they now have the power, because of Citizens United, to aggregate capital into political-action committees and to influence the debate,” he said. “The President has a philosophy of disdain toward wealth creation. That’s just obvious, O.K.? We talked about it all night.” He later said, “If there’s a pope of this movement, it’s Lee Cooperman.”
The growing antagonism of the super-wealthy toward Obama can seem mystifying, since Obama has served the rich quite well. His Administration supported the seven-hundred-billion-dollar TARP rescue package for Wall Street, and resisted calls from the Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, and others on the left, to nationalize the big banks in exchange for that largesse. At the end of September, the S. & P. 500, the benchmark U.S. stock index, had rebounded to just 6.9 per cent below its all-time pre-crisis high, on October 9, 2007. The economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty have found that ninety-three per cent of the gains during the 2009-10 recovery went to the top one per cent of earners. Those seated around the table at dinner with Al Gore had done even better: the top 0.01 per cent captured thirty-seven per cent of the total recovery pie, with a rebound in their incomes of more than twenty per cent, which amounted to an additional $4.2 million each.Notwithstanding Occupy Wall Street’s focus on the “one per cent,” or Obama’s choice of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars as the level at which taxes on family income should rise, the salient dividing line between rich and not rich is much higher up the income-distribution scale. Hostility toward the President is particularly strident among the ultra-rich.
This is the group that has benefitted most from the winner-take-all economy: the 0.1 per cent, whose share of the national income was 7.8 per cent in 2009, according to I.R.S. data. Moreover, even as the shifting tides of the global economy have rewarded the richest while squeezing the middle class, the U.S. tax system has favored the very top, as the tax returns of the Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, have illustrated. In 2011, Romney paid an effective tax rate of just 14.1 per cent, and his income of $13.7 million places him in the 0.01-per-cent group.
When Obama first ran for President, four years ago, Wall Street formed an important and lucrative part of his base: he raised about sixteen million dollars from the financial sector, compared with McCain, who raised about nine million. Employees of Goldman Sachs contributed more to Obama’s campaign than workers at any other firm, on Wall Street or beyond. Like many others in the financial-services industry, Leon Cooperman was impressed when he first saw Obama in action, at a Goldman Sachs event at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, in May, 2007. Goldman had assembled a group of hedge-fund managers to meet the junior senator from Illinois who had the temerity to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Cooperman said he was impressed by Obama’s reply to a question about what he would do to taxes on the rich if he were elected. “ ‘Raise ’em.’ Just like that. ‘Raise ’em,’ ” Cooperman recalled Obama saying.
Although he voted for McCain in 2008, Cooperman was not compelled to enter the political debate until June, 2011, when he saw the President appear on TV during the debt-ceiling battle. Obama urged America’s “millionaires and billionaires” to pay their fair share, pointing out that they were doing well at a time when both the American middle class and the American federal treasury were under pressure. “If you are a wealthy C.E.O. or hedge-fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they have ever been. They are lower than they have been since the nineteen-fifties,” the President said. “You can still ride on your corporate jet. You’re just going to have to pay a little more.”
Cooperman regarded the comments as a declaration of class warfare, and began to criticize Obama publicly. In September, at a CNBC conference in New York, he compared Hitler’s rise to power with Obama’s ascent to the Presidency, citing disaffected majorities in both countries who elected inexperienced leaders. A month before, Cooperman had written a mock, nine-point “Presidential platform,” outlining his political convictions, which he distributed to his investors. In it, he called for a freeze on entitlements, a jump in the retirement age to seventy for everyone except “those that work at hard labor,” and a temporary tax increase for the super-rich to help pay down the debt. He also called for significant spending cuts, so that the growth in government spending could be restricted to one per cent less than the increase in G.D.P. In November, he drafted the letter to the President. It was fifteen hundred words and took him two weeks to write. “I’m not a gifted writer,” Cooperman recalled. “I spent a lot of time using a dictionary and a thesaurus. I wanted to sound intelligent.” He got help from a friend, a former Omega employee. He also showed the letter to his wife, Toby.
The letter begins by acknowledging that Obama inherited an “economic mess,” but what Cooperman seems to object to most is not the President’s policies but the “highly politicized idiom” in which the debate surrounding them was being conducted:
You should endeavor to rise above the partisan fray and raise the level of discourse to one that is both more civil and more conciliatory…. Capitalism is not the source of our problems, as an economy or as a society, and capitalists are not the scourge that they are too often made out to be. As a group we employ many millions of taxpaying people, pay their salaries, provide them with healthcare coverage, start new companies, found new industries, create new products, fill store shelves at Christmas, and keep the wheels of commerce and progress (and indeed of government, by generating the income whose taxation funds it) moving. To frame the debate as one of rich-and-entitled versus poor-and-dispossessed is to both miss the point and further inflame an already incendiary environment.Evident throughout the letter is a sense of victimization prevalent among so many of America’s wealthiest people. In an extreme version of this, the rich feel that they have become the new, vilified underclass. T. J. Rodgers, a libertarian and a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, has taken to comparing Barack Obama’s treatment of the rich to the oppression of ethnic minorities—an approach, he says, that the President, as an African-American, should be particularly sensitive to. Clifford S. Asness, the founding partner of the hedge fund AQR Capital Management, wrote an open letter to the President in 2009, after Obama blamed “a small group of speculators” for Chrysler’s bankruptcy. Asness suggested that “hedge funds really need a community organizer,” and accused the White House of “bullying” the financial sector. Dan Loeb, a hedge-fund manager who supported Obama in 2008, has compared his Wall Street peers who still support the President to “battered wives.” “He really loves us and when he beats us, he doesn’t mean it; he just gets a little angry,” Loeb wrote in an e-mail in December, 2010, to a group of Wall Street financiers.
The purported activation of the fund-manager “sleeper cell” is more than the self-aggrandizement of the super-rich. It is having a material and intellectual impact on the 2012 campaign. Historically, incumbent Presidents have enjoyed a strong fund-raising advantage. Going into this year’s race, President Obama had the further benefit of his record-breaking haul in 2008. Yet the Republican National Committee and Romney, a mechanical campaigner whose ability to inspire passion in the Republican base was widely questioned during the primaries, hold a huge cash advantage over Obama. The biggest shift has been among wealthy businesspeople, particularly in financial services. Romney’s advantage is compounded by the advent of Super PACs in this Presidential campaign, which are not subject to the same contribution limits as parties or candidates. The Republican-aligned Restore Our Future, for instance, has raised ninety-six million dollars this election season, and many of its top donors, who give a million dollars or more, work in finance.
The President, in Cooperman’s view, draws political support from those who are dependent on government. Last October, in a question-and-answer session at a Thomson Reuters event, Cooperman said, “Our problem, frankly, is as long as the President remains anti-wealth, anti-business, anti-energy, anti-private-aviation, he will never get the business community behind him. The problem and the complication is the forty or fifty per cent of the country on the dole that support him.”
Framing the political debate as job creators on one side and the President and the fifty per cent of Americans who are supported by the state on the other was striking at the time. It has become even more so since Mitt Romney was secretly recorded at a closed-door fund-raiser in Florida, in May, saying that forty-seven per cent of Americans don’t pay income taxes, are “dependent on the government,” and will vote for President Obama “no matter what.”
Romney’s comment has been widely criticized as a mistake that could cost him the election, with even Republicans accusing their candidate of incompetence. Cooperman’s statement six months earlier shows that Romney’s forty-seven-per-cent remark wasn’t an undisciplined slip by a gaffe-prone politician but, instead, the assertion of a view that is widely held by people of Romney’s class.
America’s super-rich feel aggrieved in part because they believe themselves to be fundamentally different from a leisured, hereditary gentry. In his letter, Cooperman detailed a Horatio Alger biography that has made him an avatar for the new super-rich. “While I have been richly rewarded by a life of hard work (and a great deal of luck), I was not to-the-manor-born,” he wrote, going on to describe his humble beginnings in the South Bronx, as the son of working-class parents—his father was a plumber—who had emigrated from Poland. Cooperman makes it known that he gets up at 5:20 A.M. and is at his desk at Omega’s offices in lower Manhattan, on the thirty-first floor of a building overlooking the East River and Brooklyn, by 6:40 A.M. He rarely gets home before 9 P.M., and most evenings he has a business dinner after leaving the office. “I say that I date my wife on the weekends,” he told me one August afternoon at his office. The space is defiantly modest, furnished with nineteen-nineties-era glass coffee tables, unfashionable yellow couches, and family photographs.Cooperman’s pride in his work ethic is one source of his disdain for Obama. “When he ran for President, he’d never worked a day in his life. Never held a job,” he said. Obama had, of course, worked—as a business researcher, a community organizer, a law professor, and an attorney at a law firm, not to mention an Illinois state legislator and a U.S. senator, before being elected President. But Cooperman was unimpressed. “He went into government service right out of Harvard,” he said. “He never made payroll. He’s never built anything.”
Cooperman differs from many of his fellow super-rich in one important regard. He understands that he isn’t just smart and hardworking but that he has also been lucky. “I joined the right firm in the right industry,” he said. “I started an investment partnership at the right time.” In the fall of 1963, he enrolled in dental school at the University of Pennsylvania, but within the first week he began to have doubts, and he dropped out soon afterward. “My father, may he rest in peace, was going to work saying, ‘My son, the dentist,’ ” Cooperman said. “It was a total embarrassment amongst his friends.”
Cooperman went on to make a series of fortunate choices. Chief among those was entering the financial markets, after graduating in 1967 from Columbia Business School. In the sixties, Wall Street wasn’t yet the obvious destination for the smart and ambitious, but it was on the verge of becoming the most lucrative industry in America. Cooperman became an analyst at Goldman Sachs, at the time a scrappy partnership that had nearly failed during the Great Depression. In 1976, Cooperman was named a partner. He went on to found Goldman’s asset-management business, but, after twenty-five years at the firm, he decided to start his own hedge fund. Between 1991, when Cooperman founded Omega, and the 2008 financial crisis was the best time in history to make a fortune in finance. Cooperman’s partners who stayed behind at Goldman Sachs are hardly paupers—and those who stuck around for the 1999 I.P.O. are probably multimillionaires—but the real windfalls on Wall Street have been made by the financiers who founded their own investment firms in the period that Cooperman did.
Toby Cooperman grew up five miles away from her husband, in the west Bronx. She asked Cooperman out after they met in French class at Hunter College. Toby has two graduate degrees, in education and as a reading specialist, and works three days a week at a special-needs school in Chatham, New Jersey.
“Growing up lower-middle-class Jewish in the Bronx, I never knew a Republican,” Toby Cooperman recalled. “Everybody loved Roosevelt.” She is still a liberal, a position that puts her in the minority in their social circle. “She can be a socialist because she’s married to a capitalist,” Cooperman says of his wife, who is strongly pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. She calls Todd Akin, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry “morons,” and she worries about the underclass. “I care more about the disadvantaged people of America,” she said, comparing her politics with those of her husband. “I have friends who are very dependent on Medicare.”
Even so, Toby, who voted for Obama in 2008, defers to her husband when it comes to taxation, and she admires his letter to Obama. “He used a lot of good words,” she said.
The New York Post published an abridged version of the letter, and Cooperman e-mailed it to some of his friends and colleagues. It quickly went viral. Within a couple of weeks, Cooperman was being courted by everyone from CNBC and Fox to Al Jazeera. “I would say, unequivocally, I never got as much response in anything I’ve ever done, in business or outside of business, that I got in that letter,” Cooperman said.
Cooperman keeps a bulging manila folder of congratulatory notes in his office at Omega. He received “hundreds and hundreds of e-mails.” According to Cooperman, only one was nasty: “If I knew where you lived, I’d put a bomb in your car.” The folder includes a letter from a former chief of Goldman Sachs and another from a current boss of one of the nation’s top five banks. There are succinct letters of support from fellow Wall Street titans, typed on thick, embossed paper, and signed with a flourish, and long, angry screeds, which warn, as a ninety-two-year-old lawyer from Fort Worth, Texas, put it, that “Barack Obama is a Communist pure and simple, with a determined plan to convert America into a Communistic nation.”
Like his wife, Cooperman doesn’t approve of the right’s blurring of the line between church and state, or its stance on gay marriage and abortion. Romney, he told me, has got to “appease the conservative wing of his party. But I don’t think he’s nuts like all those guys are.” Like other plutocrats, Cooperman presents his complaint not as a selfish defense of his pocketbook but as a concern about the degradation of the American dream. Jamie Dimon, the C.E.O. of JP Morgan Chase, who was widely criticized this spring for the firm’s highly risky trade that has led to at least six billion dollars in losses, has echoed Cooperman’s view of the Obama Administration. Speaking on “Meet the Press” in May, Dimon said that he didn’t mind paying higher taxes and wanted “a more equitable society.” But the “anti-business behavior, the sentiment, the attacks on work ethic and successful people” by some Democrats had alienated Dimon so much that he said he would now call himself “a barely Democrat.”
“It’s a question of tone,” Cooperman said. “The President makes it sound like the problems of the ninety-nine per cent are caused by the one per cent, and that’s not the case.” Yet some of the harshest language of this election cycle has come from the super-rich. Comparing Hitler and Obama, as Cooperman did last year at the CNBC conference, is something of a meme. In 2010, the private-equity billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, of the Blackstone Group, compared the President’s as yet unsuccessful effort to eliminate some of the preferential tax treatment his sector receives to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. After Cooperman made his Hitler comment, he has said, his wife called him a “schmuck.” But he couldn’t resist repeating the analogy when we spoke in May of this year. “You know, the largest and greatest country in the free world put a forty-seven-year-old guy that never worked a day in his life and made him in charge of the free world,” Cooperman said. “Not totally different from taking Adolf Hitler in Germany and making him in charge of Germany because people were economically dissatisfied. Now, Obama’s not Hitler. I don’t even mean to say anything like that. But it is a question that the dissatisfaction of the populace was so great that they were willing to take a chance on an untested individual.”
It’s easy to see how even a resolutely unflashy billionaire like Cooperman can acquire a sense of entitlement. In a single hour at his desk one morning in April, the C.E.O.s of two well-known public companies were on the phone to Cooperman lobbying for his support. (He is a major investor in their firms.) Companies courting his investment dollars pick up Cooperman at Teterboro Airport in their private jets to give him a tour of their projects. The Coopermans have chosen an emphatically low-key life style, but when they went to visit a grandchild in Vermont one summer weekend they flew in a private plane.Last July, before he had written the letter, Cooperman was invited to the White House for a reception to honor wealthy philanthropists who had signed Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, promising to donate at least fifty per cent of their net worth to charity. At the event, Cooperman handed the President two copies of “Inspired: My Life (So Far) in Poems,” a self-published book written by Courtney Cooperman, his fourteen-year-old granddaughter. Cooperman was surprised that the President didn’t send him a thank-you note or that Malia and Sasha Obama, for whom the books were intended as a gift and to whom Courtney wrote a separate letter, didn’t write to Courtney. (After Cooperman grumbled to a few friends, including Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, Michelle Obama did write. Booker, who was also a recipient of Courtney’s book, promptly wrote her “a very nice note,” Cooperman said.)
When Cooperman told me the story of his lucky escape from dental school, he concluded, “I probably make more than a thousand dentists, summed up.” (A thousand dentists would need to work for a decade—and pay no taxes or living expenses—to collectively earn Cooperman’s net worth.) During another conversation, Cooperman mentioned that over the weekend an acquaintance had come by to get some friendly advice on managing his personal finances. He was a seventy-two-year-old world-renowned cardiologist; his wife was one of the country’s experts in women’s medicine. Together, they had a net worth of around ten million dollars. “It was shocking how tight he was going to be in retirement,” Cooperman said. “He needed four hundred thousand dollars a year to live on. He had a home in Florida, a home in New Jersey. He had certain habits he wanted to continue to pursue.
“I’m just saying that it’s not an impressive amount of capital for two people that were leading physicians for their entire work life,” Cooperman went on. “You know, I lost more today than they spent a lifetime accumulating.”
One billionaire who is not part of Cooperman’s “sleeper cell” is Warren Buffett. In 1982, Buffett sent Cooperman a note, praising one of the research reports he had written at Goldman Sachs. It hangs on Cooperman’s office wall. Cooperman clearly cherishes the opportunities that the Giving Pledge has given him to spend time with Buffett. He also admires Buffett’s life style, which is similar to his own. But Buffett’s embrace of the rule that bears his name—President Obama’s proposal that no millionaire should pay less than thirty per cent of his income in taxes—sets him apart from his peers.Cooperman pointed out that Buffett had adroitly minimized his personal taxes for many years until his late-life star turn as the President’s favorite billionaire. “I’m more charitable to him than most, because I have enormously high regard for him,” Cooperman said. “There are a lot of people who think he’s become extraordinarily hypocritical. . . . If he thinks it’s so wrong, people say, ‘Well, why doesn’t he just give his money to the government?’”
Many billionaires have come to view charity as privatized taxation, paid at a level they determine, and to organizations they choose. “All things being equal, you’d rather have control of the money than the government,” Cooperman said. “Even if you’re giving it away, you’d rather give it away the way you want to give it away rather than the way the government gives it away.” Cooperman and his wife focus their giving on Jewish issues, education, and their local community in New Jersey, and he is also setting up a foundation that will allow his children and grandchildren to support their own chosen causes after he dies.
Foster Friess, a retired mutual-fund investor from Wyoming who was the backer of the main Super PAC supporting the Republican primary candidate Rick Santorum, expounded on this view in a video interview in February. “People don’t realize how wealthy people self-tax,” he said. “If you have a certain cause, an art museum or a symphony, and you want to support it, it would be nice if you had the choice.” The middle class anonymously and nervously pays its thirty-five per cent to the I.R.S., while the super-rich pay fourteen per cent, and are then praised for giving five or ten per cent more to pet causes, often with the perk of having their names engraved above the door.
Cooperman repeatedly emphasizes his willingness in principle to pay higher taxes, though he sees nothing wrong with paying at the lowest possible rate the law allows. Although Toby still lives in New Jersey, Cooperman told me that he has moved for most of the year to Florida, “because I had arthritis, and I just needed the warmer weather.” He added, “Not to say there’s no benefit of a zero state income tax versus ten.”
Nick Hanauer is a Seattle entrepreneur and venture capitalist who was one of the first investors in Amazon. In a book published this year, he argues that since the Reagan era American capitalists have enjoyed a uniquely supportive set of ideological, political, and economic conditions. Their personal enrichment came to be seen as a precondition for the enrichment of everyone else. Lower taxes for them were a social good, rather than a selfish perk.
“If you are a job creator, your fifteen-per-cent tax rate is righteous. If you aren’t, it is a con job,” Hanauer told me. “The idea that the rich deserve to be rich is a very comforting idea if you are rich.” Referring to Obama’s “You didn’t build that” remark, at a rally in Virginia in July, which became a flashpoint with the right, Hanauer said that “the notion that you built it yourself is what you need to believe to feel comfortable with yourself and your desire not to pay too much in taxes.”
I asked Cooperman whether Romney should disclose his tax returns. Beyond 2011 and 2010, he has not released any others. “Only a fool pays taxes that you don’t have to pay,” Cooperman said. “So what am I going to learn? He made a lot of money and he paid less taxes than the average person, but he did it from legal means. Does that make me think less of him? It’ll make me think more of him.” Cooperman observed that the smart reaction to Romney’s low effective tax rate would be to ask him for the name of his tax lawyer.
Cooperman prides himself both on not being partisan and on his streetwise Bronx kid’s suspicion of politicians in general. But he’s genuinely enthusiastic about Romney. He approves of Romney’s commitment to his family and he admires Romney’s private-sector experience. “He’s an accomplished businessman,” Cooperman said. “The fact that he’s wealthy and successful I think is good, not bad.”
Cooperman told me that he thought this was the most important election of his lifetime. In June, he made his biggest ever political contribution, when he wrote a fifty-thousand-dollar check supporting Mitt Romney’s Presidential bid after Romney’s brother, Scott, visited the Omega offices. Now Cooperman is planning another political volley. With his Omega partner Steven Einhorn and fellow-billionaire Ken Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot, he has drafted a second open letter, which he hopes will be co-signed by a large group of self-made billionaires, and published as a newspaper advertisement in some swing states. Cooperman estimates that it will cost around a million dollars, a sum he says the group will split. “It’s going to be, you know, ‘We are the one per cent that came from the ninety-nine per cent, and we want to see more of the ninety-nine per cent move in our direction, but we fear the President’s policies discourage that from happening,’ ” Cooperman said.
At the SALT conference in Las Vegas, there was no shortage of wealthy financiers who shared Cooperman’s view. At a “Titans of Wall Street” panel, Barry Sternlicht, the W hotel-chain founder, appeared with Dan Loeb, the hedge-fund manager who compared Wall Street supporters of Obama to “battered wives,” and who has given three hundred and fifty thousand dollars to Republican Super PACs and thousands more to Republican candidates this campaign cycle. Their session was off the record, but attendees said that the two investors inveighed passionately against the President’s “anti-business” attitude. Another panelist suggested that Sternlicht and Loeb form a pro-business ticket and make a run for the White House. The audience cheered.
On the final day, Cooperman delivered a presentation on his top stock picks. A few hours later, the conference concluded in the Bellagio’s grand ballroom, with the most billionaire-friendly speaker of all: Sarah Palin. She strode onto the stage and opened her talk with a rousing greeting, “Hello, one per cent! How y’all doing!” ♦