When Obama Loved Private Equity

Oct 24, 2012 7:08pm

 President Obama has spent much of the past six months hammering away at Mitt Romney’s career in the private equity business, but for a time, as a state senator in Illinois, Obama  sang the praises of  the private equity sector, saying it offered “the best opportunity for economic vitality” in Illinois.

“As many of you know venture capital and private equity is one of the key mechanisms by which we finance new businesses in the state of Illinois,” state Sen. Obama said in a speech before the Illinois Senate on May 30, 2003.  “For a variety of reasons, Illinois has been lagging behind some of our competitor states in the formation of venture capital and its deployment in terms of seeding and funding new companies.”

To help make Illinois more competitive in attracting venture capital, Obama proposed the formation of a special task force on private equity – and made it clear he was doing it at the request of those in the business.

“This is an issue that has piqued the interest of various persons in the industry, and so they have asked that we form this Private Equity Task Force to examine these issues,” Obama said, according to an Illinois Senate transcript from May 2003.

Here’s a link to the transcript (Senator Obama’s speech begins on page 161)

The task force was created with Senate Resolution 89, a bill offered by then Sen. Obama that described private equity as the key driver of the state’s economy.

“The development of the private equity sector of the Illinois economy,” the resolution said, “offers the best opportunity   for long-term economic vitality, for the expansion of jobs, for the improvement of productivity and a quality standard of living, and for providing the greatest number of citizens with genuine opportunity.”

There was no mention of Bain Capital, but it sounds like something a former chairman of Bain Capital would embrace without hesitation.

The resolution passed by a vote of 56-0.

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