Obama national co-chair works in private equity, like Romney

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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One of President Barack Obama’s top campaign spokesmen is a private equity manager whose firm has shut down several factories and laid off hundreds of people amid a stalled economy.

Federico Pena’s role at Vestar Capital Partners has emerged as Obama’s aides and deputies continue their effort to portray former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney‘s investment career as ruthless, job-destroying, profit-maximizing “vulture capitalism.” Pena has been a partner at Vestar since 2000.

Pena is a former mayor of Denver in swing-state Colorado, a former cabinet member for President Bill Clinton and one of 35 “national co-chairs “ of the president’s 2012 campaign.

The news will likely further undermine the Obama campaign’s effort to focus on Romney’s business practices, rather than Obama’s White House policies, and the resulting debt, deficits and unemployment.

The effort has been stymied by a series of business-friendly Democratic politicians — such as Newark Mayor Cory Booker — who have stepped forward to defend or praise the investment sector.

Pena’s private-equity role was highlighted by, a Drudge-mimicking news aggregator.

Pena has already contributed $5,000 to Obama’s campaign, even though Vestar laid off 1,000 workers from Del Monte this month, closed three factories and laid off 540 people at Solo Cup Co., and fired another 500 workers at BirdsEye food-processor in 2006, according to the report.

The Pena revelation follows reports highlighting the venture capital careers of two people on the president’s jobs council.

Richard Parsons, chairman of Citigroup, is a senior adviser at Providence Equity Partners, and Mark Gallogly is a co-founder of Centerbridge Partners.

Pena joined Vestar in 1998. “Our strategy is simple: We look for strong management teams at successful companies with excellent growth potential,” according to the company’s website. “We back those teams with the capital and global resources they need to realize that potential and take their companies to the next level.”

The company is based in Denver, in New York near Wall Street and in Boston, which is also home to Romney’s Bain Capital company.

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