In the Loop

Democratic Cash Hound Susman May Be Headed for High Tea

By Al Kamen
Friday, February 20, 2009

It's still a bit early for the Obama team to start focusing on ambassadorial nominees -- they've got a few more pressing openings to worry about. Some names -- Harvard professor Joseph Nye to Japan, Steelers owner Art Rooney to Ireland, for example -- have been floated for the non-career or political slots.

And another primo job, ambassador to the Court of St. James's, also known as ambassador to Britain, looks to be going to Louis Susman, a mega-fundraiser for Obama who gave and bundled some major bucks for the campaign. It's likely to happen, but a source with direct knowledge of the negotiation said that "it's not final."

Susman, a Chicago lawyer who retired Feb. 1 as vice chairman of Citigroup Global Markets, has been a Democratic moneyman for decades and served as finance director for several presidential campaigns. He was such a prodigious fundraiser for Sen. John Kerry in 2004, helping raise $247 million, that he was described in a Chicago Tribune article as a vacuum cleaner because he was able to "Hoover" money from "deep pockets."

"I was with Kerry for 2 1/2 years, gained 30 pounds, and my blood pressure shot up to 187," Susman told Carol Marin of the Chicago Sun-Times, saying the Kerry campaign nearly killed him.

Susman was an early backer of Obama's -- getting on board even before Obama declared his candidacy in early 2007 -- and was one of the campaign's biggest bundlers. He passed up the chance to help other Democrats, including his good friend Tom Vilsack, because he believed so strongly in Obama. He hosted a fundraiser last summer at his Nantucket beach home featuring Kerry and former vice president Al Gore.

If Sebelius Won't Do It . . .

A New Name in the HHS mix emerges.

The Obama White House continues to work on finding a replacement nominee for Tom Daschle to be health and human services secretary. The leading contender remains Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D), who seems somewhat hesitant about making the move to D.C.

The administration is also considering Nancy-Ann DeParle, former administrator of the agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid and a former honcho at the Office of Management and Budget; and Jack Lew, who has been confirmed as deputy secretary of state for management. Lew worked on health-care reform in the Clinton administration. There is a growing view that it may take two people to handle the twin roles Daschle had negotiated (a West Wing office plus the Cabinet spot).

Capitol Hill Temps?

Looking for short-term employment? Beleaguered Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) is looking to fill a lot of openings.

Burris has struggled to put together a staff, even though he was sworn in more than five weeks ago. So long ago that Dick Cheney (remember him?) did the honors. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) loaned him a chief of staff. Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) sent someone his way.

But Thursday, as our colleague Peter Slevin tried to find the new senator's communication team, an aide said that the temporary spokesman had moved on. The senator's Web site featured his smiling photo and a brief biography, along with the notation, "Permanent Web site currently under construction."

Slevin tracked down Jim O'Connor, a veteran of Illinois campaigns, who said he plans to report to work Monday as Burris's communications director. (If Burris hasn't quit by then.)

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