Penny Pritzker with CAP China Delegation meeting Mayor of Tianjin in September 2009

My antenna suddenly shot up when I got to the bottom of yet another otherwise innocuous, gossip-filled Stratfor email and saw Stratfor VP Fred Burton claiming that a billionaire Obama fundraiser had accused the President of “weakness and wimpiness” in 2009, and that they would probably sit out the 2012 election:

From: Fred Burton [mailto:burton@stratfor.com]
Sent: Friday, November 06, 2009 8:01 AM
To: ‘Secure List’
Subject: Insight – China/Tibet/Obama
From a billionaire Democratic fundraiser –

The billionaire (who also funds ACORN) is greatly disappointed over Obama’s “weakness and wimpyness” towards China (“Fred, they only understand strength”) and Obama’s failure to meet with the Dhali Lama. The fundraiser stated he/she was personally disappointed (“betrayed”) for helping Obama get into The White House and does not intend to support Obama next election, absent a drastic turn-around.

Okay, so the “billionaire Democratic fundraiser” who feels “betrayed” (according to Burton) was a 2008 fundraiser who “helped Obama get into the White House.”  Obama had a number of billionaire bundlers, so it doesn’t really narrow it down. They also apparently funded ACORN, but nobody is really taking credit for that these days.

Burton is originally careful to say “he/she” when referring to his source at 8:01 am.  But he can’t help himself, and at 9:02 am lets the cat out of the bag:

From: Fred Burton [mailto:burton@stratfor.com]
Sent: Friday, November 06, 2009 9:02 AM
To: ‘Bartholomew Mongoven’; ‘Anya Alfano’
Subject: FW: Insight – China/Tibet/Obama
Mrs. P

“Mrs. P?”

Stratfor’s Bartholomew Mongoven apparently knows Mrs. P too:

From: Bartholomew Mongoven [mailto:mongoven@stratfor.com]
Sent: Friday, November 06, 2009 10:55 AM
To: ‘Fred Burton’; ‘Anya Alfano’
Subject: RE: Insight – China/Tibet/Obama

I remember that she had misgivings about supporting him during the primaries. I assume that rather than support a challenger, she’ll just sit out 2012 (unless Obama finds a spine). I’d love to know if there was any talk about whether she and her set think it’s him or his staff (esp. Emanuel) who is making his presidency so muddled so far.

So Burton doesn’t appear to be the only Stratfor employee that “Mrs. P” dishes to.

There’s only one Obama billionaire bundler who is a woman, and her last name happens to end in “P”:  Penny Pritzker, heiress to the Hyatt Hotel fortune.  She was called by the Washington Post “the most important person in Barack Obama’s presidential bid – except, perhaps, for Obama himself.”   She was his national finance chair in 2008, and did ultimately come back for 2012.  She now serves as one of six national co-chairs for the Obama 2012 campaign.

In fact there are only two female billionaires with the last names that begin with “P”:  Penny Pritzker and her cousin Linda.   Linda is a Tibetan Buddhist, and it’s entirely possible she’d be disappointed with the President’s refusal to meet with the Dahli Lahma and get tough with China over Tibet.

So I looked at Linda’s campaign donation history.  She maxed out to John Edwards in 2007, and didn’t donate to the Obama campaign until April of 2008 ($2300).  There’s no evidence she was a “fundraiser” for Obama, or that she would have felt “responsible” for putting him in the White House.  She put $3.37 million into the 2004 election in support of John Kerry  and was one of the biggest  527 donors in 2006 ($2.2 million), but largely seems to have sat out the 2008 Presidential election.

That leaves us with Penny.  Why would Stratfor consider Penny a source for intelligence on China?

Well, in September of 2009, Penny was part of a Center for American Progress delegation to China to make recommendations on the future of US-China relations that included CAP CEO and President John Podesta, Former Senator Tom Dashall and Ambassador Wendy Sherman, among others.  CAP released a report of their findings on November 12 2009, just after the Stratfor email exchange and just prior to President Obama’s trip to China.

The  CAP report did deal with human rights issues in Tibet:

The Chinese officials with whom the CAP delegation spoke maintained that the Dalai Lama and Rebiya Kadeer are not spiritual or cultural leaders, but political figures whose campaigns threaten the territorial integrity of the entire country.

While the CAP delegation disagreed with that assessment, they stopped short of recommending that the President meet with the Dahli Lama. Instead, the report concludes:

The United States should not let human rights define the relationship, but it must ensure that human rights and the values and beliefs that have come to define the United States are never left off the table.

CAP is pretty much an arm of the White House, so I don’t imagine anyone thinks this report didn’t have the Obama seal of approval. If someone were committed to the idea of Obama meeting with the Dahli Lama and prioritizing Tibetan human rights, they might well think Obama was being “wimpy” with such a mushy statement.

Or worse.  By 3:58 Fred Burton is really going for the gold, and fires off another email in response to Mongoven:

From: Fred Burton [mailto:burton@stratfor.com]
Sent: Friday, November 06, 2009 3:58 PM
To: ‘Bartholomew Mongoven’; ‘Anya Alfano’
Subject: RE: Insight – China/Tibet/Obama

She blames Obama and Biden. I dropped Emanuel into the soup and she said that he would be added to her list. She believes Biden is weasel and Obama is a pussy. I want her to fund my bid for Congress. Yes, I can be bought.

O-kay.  I have nothing to say about that.

Mongoven goes on to state that he doesn’t categorize Mrs. P as a typical liberal environmental extremist:  ”I think Mrs. P is far closer to a D.C. view of things. The liberal factions in DC think Obama is being a pussy. They don’t want a climate deal that kills the US economy and gives everything to the Chinese, but they want someone to stand up to the Chinese and say this is the way it’s going to be.’”

But could there be another reason why Penny Pritzker would be thinking Obama was…er, “wimpy” in 2009?

Well, remember in 2008 that the White House put up a trial balloon about nominating her for Commerce Secretary, a job she sought.  The right predictably attacked Obama for “cronyism” and Pritzker publicly took herself out of the running, but nobody really believed it was due to her lack of nerve in the situation.  Obama clearly did not want to take the heat that nominating her would bring, and after having raised bucketloads of money for him, she was probably rightfully sore.

What I find most interesting about the entire exchange though  is that if indeed Burton’s source is Penny Pritzker, she’s a White House insider who has just been on a junket to China with other White House insiders, in preparation for the President’s trip, and is probably privy to all kinds of intelligence that would be valuable to Stratfor’s corporate clients about where US-China policy is headed. But these “intelligence analysts” are consumed with petty domestic political gossip that has exactly zero value, because again, if it is Penny Pritzker they were discussing, she ultimately did re-up for Obama’s 2012 campaign.

After reading through the Stratfor emails for the past five days, I still have to wonder exactly why companies like Coka Cola and Duke Energy were paying $20,000 a year to these guys for what basically amounts to unreliable gossip and news aggregation.

Other posts on the identity of Stratfor’s “sources”: