Wholesale Cronyism

Obama lavishes praise on Costco, whose former CEO helped finance his reelection

Costco CEO Jim Sinegal / AP
January 29, 2014

President Barack Obama praised Costco, whose founder and former chief executive has raised millions for the president and hosted him for fundraisers at his palatial Seattle home, in a Wednesday speech at a Costco store.

Touting the supposed benefits of a federal minimum wage hike, Obama said, "Business leaders today, some of them understand this same concept. Costco's CEO, he understands this."

He went on to laud the company’s "commitment to fairness."

Jim Sinegal, Costco’s former CEO, is a long-time supporter of the president and the Democratic Party.

He hosted two high-dollar fundraisers for Obama at his home in Hunts Point, WA, a wealthy waterside enclave near Seattle. They reportedly brought in $2 million for the president’s reelection effort.

Sinegal received a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention a month later, where he proclaimed that Obama was "making an economy built to last."

Sinegal himself has donated more than $800,000 to Democratic candidates, committees, and interest groups, including more than $11,000 in contributions to Obama and $35,000 to the Obama Victory Fund.

He’s given a mere $500 to a single Republican, former Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar.

His wife, Janet Sinegal, has made nearly $300,000 worth of political contributions, all to Democratic candidates and groups.

Some see Sinegal’s financial support for Obama and the president’s rhetorical support for Costco as mutual back scratching.

"This is Obamanomics," wrote Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney last year "If you’re cozy with government, your business gets plenty of help."

If "you’re a fundraiser and donor for the Obama Victory Fund, and your company’s lobbying agenda coincides with the White House’s—then Obama will give you a shout-out in a major economic address," wrote Carney, who is also a visiting fellow with the American Enterprise Institute’s Culture of Competition Project.

The White House has denied that the president visits businesses run by his top donors as a means to reward them for campaign contributions. However, Sinegal is not the first high-profile Obama supporter whose business has received a presidential visit since his reelection.

Obama recently stopped at the headquarters of DreamWorks, whose CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg, has been the single largest fundraiser for the president since his 2008 run.

During the same swing through California, the president visited the home of Haim Saban, a wealthy Democratic donor who gave $1 million to pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA last year.

Obama tapped Saban’s wife for a top U.S. diplomatic post last year.