Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Chicagoans on the White House State Dinner Guest List

Wednesday night’s dinner, carrying the theme, “America’s Backyards,” was in honor of “The Right Honorable David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, and his wife, Mrs. Samantha Cameron.” Here are the Chicago names I recognized, along with, in some cases, a bit of annotation…

In the years before the Internet, when I was writing books about such Washington cave dwellers as Alice Roosevelt Longworth and Katharine Graham, I used to get the Washington Post mailed to me in Chicago, complete with grocery ads and a giant subscription bill. It was worth it to me for the obituaries alone—to see which Washington luminary had died before I could get his/her interview on tape. And then there was my favorite feature, the guest lists, often hundreds of names long, for White House State Dinners. There was no better guide to D.C. power and privilege—and no better way to fill out my wish list of interviewees. 

I continued to closely examine the lists during the Clinton years and the Bush years. Now, in the Obama years—this is the sixth Obama state dinner—they are more interesting than ever because they contain so many Chicagoans.

Wednesday night’s dinner, carrying the theme, “America’s Backyards,”—held on the South Lawn, in a tent complete with a 150-foot-wide glass wall—was in honor of “The Right Honorable David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, and his wife, Mrs. Samantha Cameron.”

Here are the Chicago names I recognized, along with, in some cases, a bit of annotation. I’ve undoubtedly missed some on the 362-name list and would love to hear from readers who catch an oversight or two.

Oh, and not so incidentally, many on the list qualify as big bundlers for Obama-—and are also part of our list of 100 most powerful Chicagoans.

+ Fred Eychaner, Obama bundler and chairman of Newsweb Corporation
+ Louis Susman, former Obama bundler and current U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, and his wife Marjorie
+ Neil Bluhm, Obama bundler, Walton Street Capital Managing Principal, and his daughter Leslie Bluhm, a 2011 Chicagoan of the Year
+ Wally Brewster, Jr., and Robert Satawake, Obama bundlers, General Growth Properties/Keller Williams Realty
+ Jim Crown, Obama bundler and president of Henry Crown & Co., and his wife Paula Hannaway Crown
+ Rajiv Kumar Fernando, Obama bundler and CEO of Chopper Trading
+ Valerie Jarrett, assistant to President Obama and senior advisor and close friend of both Obamas
+ Chuck Lewis, Obama bundler, chairman of the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation, managing partner of Coach House Capital and Evanston resident
+ Marty Nesbitt and his wife Anita Kay Blanchard, close Hyde Park friends of Obamas
+ Dr. Eric Whitaker and his wife Dr. Cheryl Whitaker, close Hyde Park friends of Obamas
+ Stuart Taylor II, CEO of The Taylor Group L.L.C, and his wife Evonne Taylor
+ Tina Tchen, former partner in Chicago office of  Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Michelle Obama’s chief of staff
+ Deborah Wais and her husband Marshall Wais, who is CEO of Marwais International

A full description of the menu—the main course was Bison Wellington—and the décor and floral arrangements can be found at the White House Web site.


2 years ago
Posted by Drew Walker

Correction: A "state dinner" is held by a "head of state" for a "head of state", which in the case of the United Kingdom would be Her Majesty The Queen, not the Prime Minister.

2 years ago
Posted by ups

Are James and Paula Crown "limousine liberals?" Are they Aspen's fabulous fascists? Stop their bans. Protect our freedom of speech.

SkiCo CEO: Former instructor is a public figure

by Chad Abraham, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Kaplan files answer in libel suit from Mulcahy, who is also suing Crowns

The CEO of the Aspen Skiing Co. says a libel lawsuit brought against him by a former ski instructor should be dismissed because the plaintiff is a public figure, according to a court filing.

The attorney for Mike Kaplan filed a response Monday to Lee Mulcahy’s lawsuit in Pitkin County District Court. It says the plaintiff “is a public figure by virtue of his involvement in matters of public interest or general concern.”

Mulcahy on Friday also sued Paula and James Crown, SkiCo’s owners, in Pitkin County Court seeking to overturn his company-imposed ban that prevents him from using ski lifts or otherwise stepping foot on SkiCo properties like restaurants. The lawsuit against the Crowns also seeks $1.

The war of words between Mulcahy and SkiCo began in November 2010, when the instructor filed two complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). He claimed the company had violated federal labor law in restructuring its ski school and by removing him from an elite team of instructors as retaliation for discussing unionization.

Mulcahy has been banned from the ski areas and all company-owned property since Dec. 30, 2010, when he distributed fliers to guests in the SkiCo-owned Little Nell hotel and in gondola plaza. The material criticized the ski school’s pay policies. He was also suspended with pay starting that day and told that the company would press trespassing charges if he violated the ban. He was fired Jan. 31, 2011.

But Kaplan’s answer says, as the CEO wrote in a letter to the editor in February 2011, that Mulcahy was fired for performance reasons unrelated to his NLRB complaints or his union-organizing actions. The NLRB upheld the dismissal.

The CEO acknowledges the claim in Mulcahy’s lawsuit that SkiCo changed certain workplace policies as a result of the settlement between the company and the NLRB.

Mulcahy’s suit, filed Feb. 1, says that numerous “federally mandated changes in the SkiCo’s employee handbook concerning protected freedom of speech and the ski school’s actual structure were required.” One change was “the conclusion of SkiCo’s ‘Team Leader’ program that was established to improve communications between SkiCo ski instructors and management ...,” according to Kaplan’s filing.

Mulcahy, who had been a SkiCo instructor since 1996, claims that Kaplan’s statements to company employees and in letters to the editor about him were false and defamatory.

Kaplan wrote that Mulcahy’s performance infractions included taking a class of young girls out of bounds and using abusive language toward them, and charging a private lesson to a customer’s credit card without authorization.

The lawsuit says Kaplan acted with “reckless or callous indifference” to Mulcahy’s protected rights, and it seeks $15,001 because the plaintiff sustained “a great financial loss” in 2011.

Kaplan, who has enlisted Denver attorneys Edward Ramey and Lila Bateman, denies those allegations. Bateman wrote in the answer that Kaplan’s letters contained both the truth and statements of opinion, and that he “has a qualified privilege to make the alleged statements.”

Neither attorney returned messages asking them to elaborate on the “matters of public interest or general concern” that allegedly make Mulcahy a public figure. The burden of proof in defamation lawsuits is higher for public figures.

Mulcahy also did not return a message seeking comment.

In the lawsuit against the Crowns, Mulcahy says his ban is illegal.

“Plaintiff and others similarly situated will be chilled and burdened in the exercise of his First Amendment rights because of the continued threat of arrest on public property,” wrote Mulcahy, who is representing himself. “The ban is unconstitutionally overbroad [sic] in that it renders subject to incarceration and other treatment persons who are critical of the Crowns or the SkiCo.”

SkiCo spokesman Jeff Hanle declined comment Tuesday.

The SkiCo leases much of the land it uses from the U.S. Forest Service. Because the four ski mountains are under the company’s purview, it contends it can ban Mulcahy from even hiking on national forest land. Mulcahy has since said he received a letter from the Forest Service saying he is allowed to hike and ski down if he chooses. Chairlifts, however, remain verboten.

Mulcahy also sued Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, director and curator of the Aspen Art Museum, with similar claims in county court. He is banned from museum property after he was allegedly caught on a security camera hanging “for sale” signs at the institution’s new site in downtown Aspen.

Mulcahy denied that accusation but said he taped a “citation from the citizens of Aspen” and a piece of art inspired by Occupy Wall Street “onto the museum’s sign and surveillance camera pole.” Zuckerman Jacobson has yet to file an answer to the lawsuit, which seeks $250.

2 years ago
Posted by upton

Mulcahy faces trespassing charge for serving lawsuit
Former ski instructor taped court summons on door of Skico's headquarters
Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN — The battle between a former ski instructor and Aspen Skiing Co. took another odd twist Thursday when Lee Mulcahy received a summons for third-degree trespass after he taped a court notice onto a door at the firm's headquarters.

Pitkin County Deputy Sheriff Levi Borst determined the trespass charge, a petty offense, was warranted because Mulcahy had been warned previously to stay off Skico property, according to an incident report. Mulcahy was banned from all Skico property when he was fired as a ski instructor in February 2011.

Mulcahy said he was simply trying to deliver a revised court summons for a lawsuit he filed against Jim and Paula Crown, members of the family that owns Skico. The lawsuit was initially filed in Pitkin County District Court. It was refiled in Pitkin County Court. Once it was refiled, Mulcahy was obligated to inform the Crowns.

“Being white trash, I was trying to save the money by taping the revision to the door” at Skico headquarters at 117 Aspen Airport Business Center, Mulcahy said.

In his lawsuit against the Crowns, Mulcahy is seeking to overturn the ban and damages of $1.

Earlier, Mulcahy tried to serve the revised summons by handing it to a Skico employee and asking her to take it inside, according to the incident report. The employee wouldn't help. So Mulcahy decided to tape the summons to an outside door at Skico offices. He said he had a 6-foot pole made from PVC pipe with him in case he needed an extension to avoid trespassing. However, he said he thought he was on a public sidewalk to a side door at Skico headquarters, so he walked up and taped the notice to the door.

Skico Senior Vice President and attorney Dave Bellack contacted the sheriff's department about Mulcahy's actions later Thursday. He reported the incident as a harassment because of Mulcahy's efforts to convince a Skico employee to take in the revised summons.

Mulcahy said he was contacted by a deputy at his home after he returned home Thursday night from bible study at an Aspen church. He requested that the deputy go to Skico headquarters with him to see if he actually trespassed on Skico property. Mulcahy said he will investigate whether he was on a public easement as part of his defense. The door opens to a parking lot that doesn't belong to Skico, he said.

Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said Skico had no comment about the incident.

Mulcahy claimed he was the victim in the incident. It shows how Skico “bullies the little guy,” he said.

“Should I expect this kind of disrespectful treatment from billionaires Jim and Paula Crown for pointing out they're limousine liberals .... for questioning their ban?” he said.

Mulcahy has a running battle against Skico over the wages paid to beginning ski instructors and other lower tier employees. Mulcahy wants Skico to pay what he calls a living wage.

Mulcahy was fired by Skico in February 2011. The company said it was for multiple infractions of company policy. Mulcahy claimed it was because he criticized company practices and talked to other instructors about forming a union.

He tried to get his job back by filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) but was not reinstated. The NLRB did require Skico to restructure its ski school structure so that management didn't participate on employee grievance boards. Skico was also required to specifically inform employees it was within their rights to explore formation of a union.

Mulcahy said his fight with his former employer is over freedom of speech. In addition to his lawsuit against the Crowns, he filed a libel lawsuit earlier this year against Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan for comments Kaplan made at the time of Mulcahy's firing.

Mulcahy is supposed to appear in county court May 1 for the trespass case. He said he will try to get the hearing postponed because he will be in Africa installing water wells as part of a interfaith community volunteer project.

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