Carol Felsenthal
On politics

A Chicago ‘Fixer’ Works the Inauguration

David Rosen of The Competence Group is a DePaul grad who’s worked for Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and the DNC… and this week, as a go-to guy for getting donors into the inauguration’s best after-parties.

For some, Barack Obama’s inauguration is the chance to be an eye-witness to history; a source of inspiring stories to tell one’s children and grandchildren.  For others, especially big-buck donors, the motivation to be there in person may well be the aforementioned, but may also represent an excellent opportunity to network—not only for oneself, but for one’s children as well. If checks are written for amounts sufficiently large, those donors can give their children that bird’s-eye view of history, and the chance to attend the hottest parties.

That’s where Chicago fundraiser/party producer David Rosen, 46,  comes in. Head of his own firm, The Competence Group—a reason for starting the firm in 2001, he writes on his website, was that “a lot of the campaign consultants available for hire were mediocre at best”—Rosen, raised in Olympia Fields and educated at DePaul, worked and played hard this inaugural weekend arranging access into A-list parties for at least two generations of clients.

In a telephone conversation from DC, Rosen declined to name the clients whose dance cards he filled. One thing is certain: he raised a lot of money to help pay for the inauguration. (He won’t say how much and that information won’t be released for another 90 days.) But he raised enough to score a seat close up to President Obama when he delivered his inaugural address earlier today.  

Do your clients want you to help them get ambassadorships or jobs in the administration? I asked him.  “No, they just love politics and like to go to the best events,” he explained. “Some people like to collect art, some people collect cars.” 

He told me he had no problem with his portrayal in a Washington Post story yesterday in which reporters Marc Fisher and Tom Hamburger described Rosen as a “fixer for wealthy donors on their inauguration trips.”  They quote Rosen as explaining,  “they’ve already written their checks and now they come for the celebration…. This weekend is a marker in their lives, so they want to be invited to the White House or the small gathering at the vice president’s house.” For clients’ kids, music is often the ticket, and Rosen says that he “facilitate[s]” getting them into venues featuring what the Post reporter calls “music celebrities” such as tonight’s Creative Coalition ball at the Shakespeare Theatre. Tickets range from $2,000 to $100,000 to see “a performance by the Goo Goo Dolls and a chance to be in the same room as Paula Abdul, Melissa Leo, Taraji P. Henson, Marlon Wayans and Alan Cumming.”

And yes, he and his clients will be at what he describes as the “hottest” party yet to come—Rahm Emanuel’s late-nighter, tonight from 11 pm to 3 am. “I sponsored it,” Rosen told me, adding that the “Midnight Underground” is “full of buzz… buzzing since day one, a very tough ticket. Somehow Rahm has captured the buzz. He became the person who gives the fun party, he’s masterful,” says Rosen, adding that the mayor has succeeded in hosting a party that both young and old want to be at. “The old people want to go where young people are; the young don’t want to go where the old people are, but both will be there if the venue is good.”

The party is billed as “Chicago-style.” I asked him what that means. “Just marketing,” he answered.

Rosen plans to stay late, although he has a 6 a.m flight back to his home in Chicago.  And if the “buzzy” party Rahm threw at the DNC in Denver Charlotte last summer is any indication, Rosen says, Rahm will stay late also. “In Denver Charlotte he was there until the wee hours,” and so were lots of other people because the party boasted “a huge bar with good food.”

Rosen, whose clients are all Democrats, worked for Governor Quinn in 2010 and describes himself as a “huge supporter” who “raised him a lot of money.”  He also worked raising money for Bill Clinton in 1996, the Democratic National Committee, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton (he was national finance director for her 2000 Senate campaign), and Gen. Wesley Clark in his unsuccessful attempt to win the 2004 Democratic nomination for president.  (Rahm Emanuel, then a congressman, also supported Clark.)

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