The recent White House personnel shifts signal the kickoff of President Obama’s 2012 re-election bid. Of the many changes, the selection of Bill Daley as White House chief of staff and General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt as the head of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness are the most important because they will play a key fundraising role in the upcoming presidential campaign.
Choosing Daley and Immelt are not signs of political moderation by President Obama, as some have suggested, but is the stone cold political realization that the president needs big-business cash to fuel his 2012 campaign.
It’s been reported that Obama’s 2012 re-election bid will shatter the record $750 million in contributions collected during the 2008 campaign by reaching the billion dollar mark.
To raise that staggering amount of cash, Obama is going to need substantial support from corporate deep pockets. Big-business donors, such as CEOs, hedge fund managers and law firm partners typically are not ideologues seeking to advance a political philosophy but are pragmatists wanting to know how Obama’s policies can increase their influence, business strategies and wealth.
Translating Obama’s policy into business returns and campaign dollars will be job one for Daley. As a political and Wall Street insider, Daley has the contacts to make the sale but Obama’s rhetoric and policies has not endeared the president to the animal instincts of many big-business leaders.
There is, however, one policy that can galvanize the president’s fundraising base: Obama’s war on fossil fuels and his unyielding promotion of renewable energy and a green economy.
Billions of dollars invested in renewable energy are now in jeopardy because Congress did not pass Obama’s cap-and-trade plan, which would make energy derived from the burning of fossil fuels more expensive – or, as the president said, “skyrocket.” Because renewable energy can’t compete with the price and reliability of fossil fuels, the financial viability of these investments is dependent on government action to raise the cost of carbon-based energy.
At a recent policy forum at the Brookings Institution, GE CEO Jeff Immelt emphasized the importance of a government policy that would raise energy prices to spur renewable energy. According to Reuters, “On energy, Immelt said a clear U.S. policy making fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gasses more expensive is needed ‘to move the needle’ on accelerating advanced technology investments. ‘There has to be a price on carbon,’ he said.”