SAN FRANCISCO — In a powerful display of profound disappointment with President Obama, some of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors gathered Tuesday – not inside his tony San Francisco fundraiser at the W Hotel, but outside on the sidewalks carrying signs in protest of his policies.
“I don’t even know what he stands for,” said Susie Tompkins Buell, a co-founder of the Esprit clothing company and one of the most generous Democratic Party donors in the nation – instrumental in backing such powerhouse progressive organizations as the Democracy Alliance and Media Matters.
Tompkins Buell, who is a longtime friend of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and was among her biggest donors in the 2008 presidential race, has long played a starring role in San Francisco as a hostess for presidents, top legislators and world leaders at fundraisers for progressive campaign causes.
But on Tuesday, instead of dining with the elite crowd of about 200 who paid at least $5,000 a head – and up to $7,500 for a photo with the president – at the two-hour luncheon, the Democratic activist, who could easily afford the fundraiser, said it was more important to stand outside with an estimated 1,000 demonstrators.
Her goal: to urge Obama to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed 1,700-mile underground conduit linking the tar-sand fields in Alberta, Canada, to Texas refineries. Environmentalists say the pipeline would result in untold environmental damage. “I think this is a huge issue about our future, about the planet, not just America,” she said. “And he needs to be a leader … to have the awareness of it. To fight for it.”
David desJardins, a leading IT consultant who donated $60,000 to Democratic causes in 2010, agreed.
“The concern of the donor community is that he really doesn’t get the picture of how important this is,” said desJardins, who also protested the Keystone project outside the W.
[…] “If he says yes (to Keystone), I won’t give him money,” said Michael Kieschnick, president and co-founder of CREDO Mobile and Working Assets, which has donated $60 million to progressive causes, as he stood outside the W Hotel. Added Kieschnick, whose CREDO Action, the activist arm of his cellular service company, rallied a large band of protesters Tuesday: “But I’ll work to defeat his opponent – who will be worse.”