The Standard Club, 320 S. Plymouth Ct., is just down the street from President-elect Barack Obama's Chicago transition headquarters, and near 6 p.m. Thursday Obama and wife Michelle headed over there to thank a group crucial to his White House win: the powerhouses of the Illinois political donor community, who in the first quarter of 2007 raised enough to give Obama financial parity with Hillary Rodham Clinton--a crucial vault ahead of the Democratic pack.
Obama's astounding fund-raising success is well known. On Thursday, his presidential campaign reported raising $104 million between Oct. 14 and Nov. 24, bringing his grand total to more than $750 million.
In the lobby, I watched as they came in: the Illinois finance co-chairs, John Rogers and Jim Crown, with Crown carrying boxes of Vineyard Vines custom-made Obama 2008 ties, gifts from him and Rogers to the group.
The national chair arrived, Penny Pritzker, and other who's whos of Obama's Chicago: Bettylu Saltzman, who spotted Obama as an extraordinary figure early on; Allison Davis, his former law partner; former state Sen. Bill Marovitz; Christie Hefner, the Playboy chief; and a host of others -- Marty Castro, David Solow, Greg Dingens, Michael Bauer, Lew and Susan Manilow, Kelly Welsh, Ellen Alberding, Judd Miner, Tina Tchen, Marilyn Katz, Sheldon Zenner. In all, about 100 people.
These folks -- whom Obama knew from Hyde Park, politics, work, Harvard, the East Bank Club -- were, said Crown at the reception, "the early investors in the campaign for change."
Obama -- after standing in a photo line with Michelle -- talked about those connections.
"I'm almost speechless here, which I don't usually get, because this is really a tapestry of our lives. You know, we work out at the East Bank Club. We worked on education stuff together. We've rabble-roused together. We've played basketball together. We have golfed, not so well, together. We've sat on foundation boards together. And we've seen frustrations, but also seen some dreams come true together. And so, I just want you to know that all of you had more to do with us being successful than just raising money."
Obama is raising money for his transition and Rogers and Pritzker, among the co-chairs of the presidential inauguration committee, have to raise more than $40 million between now and Jan. 20. They're not done yet.