Favorite Son - Page 5 of 8

Favorite Son

of Illinois. That is his only mandate.”

East Alton is a small community a stone’s throw away from St. Louis, where many young Altonians moved for jobs. The rain has all but stopped, and a small crowd of 150 people are already in their seats when Obama walks into the room shaking hands with his right hand as he places his left hand on the other person’s shoulder, elbow, or forearm. He always looks people directly in the eye. He is masterful at connecting with people reagardless of age, gender, or race.

At the Machinist Hall, Obama reiterated his pro-labor campaign speech, his stance on the Free Trade Agreement, China, and the ills of the Bush administration. When he finishes, the room erupts with applause, and he easily melts into the crowd, listening to ideas and answering people’s questions. An hour or so after he arrived, Obama and his entourage are back on the road, this time headed south to Carbondale to attend a $50-a-plate fundraiser in his honor. From Carbondale, his motorcade will drive four hours north to Peoria and is scheduled to arrive around 2 a.m. Campaigning is a grueling process, but he’s up to the challenge.

But Obama doesn’t only need votes; he needs money. And he has managed to raise loads of it. Of the first million that his campaign raised, half came directly from BE 100S and small minority-owned companies. He received initial donations from Chicago-based contributors like John W. Rogers Jr., CEO of Ariel Capital Management L.L.C. (No. 1 on the BE ASSET MANAGERS list with $16.1 billion in assets under management) and his wife, who gave more than $21,000. Employees of Loop Capital Markets L.L.C. (No. 3 on the BE INVESTMENT BANKS list with $113 billion in total managed issues) put up in excess of $24,000. And Louis A. Holland, managing partner of Holland Capital Management L.P. (No. 10 on the BE ASSET MANAGERS list with $1.9 billion in assets under management) personally contributed close to $10,000. Obama’s support extends beyond the boundaries of the Windy City to investment bankers in New York City such as Vernon Jordan, who along with his wife, sponsored Obama’s first big Washington fundraiser last fall at a time when his underdog campaign didn’t look good and long before anybody knew him. “Several friends of mine said to me, ‘I’m coming because of you,’ and they came, they saw, and they heard him. They took in what he had to say and I think they too felt his commitment and his passion and were moved by his eloquence enough that they wrote checks,” Jordan explains. “So I am just very impressed by him as a man, as a lawyer, as an individual, and as someone who chose not to go to a law firm but to be a community organizer and to do something about community problems. I felt when I first met him and listened to him that I was listening to myself 40