President Barack Obama named 35 co-chairmen to his presidential campaign, tapping business leaders, elected officials, veterans and volunteers to advise the campaign and help it raise money.
“The president’s national co-chairs will be tremendous assets on the ground as we build the biggest grassroots campaign in history,” Jim Messina, the Obama for America campaign manager, said in an e-mail. “They each share the president’s vision for a future where every American can have a fair shot at success, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.”
Among those named as co-chairmen are Marc R. Benioff, the chief executive officer of Salesforce.com; Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff and current mayor of Chicago; Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles; Ted Strickland, the former governor of Ohio; and Alan Solow, a partner at DLA Piper LLP and a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Presidential campaigns appoint co-chairmen to help with fundraising and serve as ambassadors on the campaign trail. Messina said they will also advise Obama on policy issues and help organize the campaign in all 50 states.
‘Job Number One’
Benioff, who donated to Republican candidates as recently as November, said in an interview that the campaign must concentrate on Obama’s drive to create jobs and help the economy recover.
“The president must stay focused on jobs and the economy,” he said. “That’s job number one.”
Some of the elected officials, including Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and California Attorney General Kamala Harris, played a role in reaching a $25 billion settlement with Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and three other U.S. banks to end a probe of abusive foreclosure practices stemming from the collapse of the housing bubble.
“Since taking office, the president has worked tirelessly to provide relief for struggling middle-class families and to lay a foundation for a strong economy that’s built to last,” Harris said in a statement e-mailed from the campaign. “The president’s leadership and vision for the future will continue to move the country forward, rather than taking us back to the failed policies of the past.”
Some of the co-chairmen, including Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, former White House House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, have long histories in Democratic politics.
Salesforce.com’s Benioff has a less heterodox background. In 2008, he contributed to the presidential campaign of Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican candidate, as well as to Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Three months ago, he donated $7,500 to Republican Linda Lingle, who is running to represent Obama’s home state of Hawaii in the U.S. Senate. In April 2011, he hosted a fundraiser for Obama, and he has collected more than $500,000 for the campaign.
That financial support for Obama hasn’t stopped him from criticizing the president’s attention to job creation.
“That message and communication and focus on jobs that he has today was not as dominant in the first two years that he was president,” Benioff said. “If the president has any failings with the business community, it’s that he doesn’t message well to the business community.”