Over dinner in Sin City, Gore and hedge fund honchos talk taxes and Obama

May 11, 2012

Fund manager Anthony Scaramucci, also known as the “Mooch,” likes to bring big-name politicos to his annual hedge fund convention-cum-carouse, the Skybridge Alternatives Conference, or, as most simply call it: SALT.

Last year, Scaramucci procured former President George W. Bush to be SALT’s keynote speaker. This year, former vice-president Al Gore scored the keynote time-slot.

The enormous and palatial Grand Ballroom at the Bellagio Hotel was packed to the brim for Gore’s appearance, but Gore’s next date with SALT attendees was more exclusive. As was the case with Bush one year earlier, Gore’s talk was followed by a dinner for twenty or so handpicked guests at the Bellagio’s private Tuscany dining room.

Seated on either side of Gore were financier and Obama bundler Orin Kramer and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, according to someone who attended the dinner. Also at the table was hedge fund supremo Leon Cooperman of Omega Advisors, a panelist at SALT who had also been a guest at the Bush dinner last year (Bush’s dining partners in 2011 included SAC Capital’s Steve Cohen, Maverick Capital’s Lee Ainslie and Millenium Partners Israel Englander).

Gore was also joined by other Wall Street veterans including Frank Meyer, founder of Glenwood Capital,  Barry Sternlicht, CEO of Starwood Capital Group, and Ted Seides, of Protege Partners, the person said, as well as other private investors.

Topics of conversation, not surprisingly, included the so-called Fiscal Cliff – billions in tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year – a topic that had peppered panel discussions all day; the so-called “Battle of the Bobs,” a 1993 showdown between then-President Bill Clinton’s labor secretary Bob Reich and his treasury secretary and former Goldman Sachs exec Bob Rubin, about how to restart the flailing economy; and Obama’s rocky relationship with Wall Street and tax hikes on America’s richest.

At one point during the  “very spirited” but friendly debate, Al Gore turned to Leon Cooperman and asked if he would mind if his taxes were raised, according to two people at the dinner.  Cooperman responded he cared less about his taxes being raised and more about President Obama dialing back anti-Wall Street rhetoric, the attendees said.

In fact, several SALT attendees have said there is a noticeable anti-Obama atmosphere at SALT this year, though not one that is necessarily pro-Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. “You can feel it,” one investment manager said of the disdain for President Obama.

When the topic of which political party could deliver a more business-friendly environment took center stage during a Wednesday panel  session, a panelist joked about a November ticket featuring Starwood Capital’s Barry Sternlicht and Third Point’s Daniel Loeb, who were both on stage at the time.

This hedge fund crowd applauded raucously at the suggestion.

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