"I want to look him in the eye and say, 'Thank you so much' " for his work, said Buell, who expresses deep disappointment in the president's leadership on environmental issues, especially climate change.
With Obama's 2012 re-election campaign in full swing, "I would just love to write my big check ... or have a high-dollar dinner here" on his behalf, she said. "I can't."
Buell, a co-founder of the Esprit clothing company, has donated millions of dollars to Democratic causes and presidential candidates, including Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore and her good friend, Hillary Rodham Clinton. In the past 10 years, she has given $25 million to progressive political and charitable causes and has raised $10 million for candidates and committees, her office said.
But as Obama flies from Southern California to San Francisco today to vacuum up donations in the reliable Democratic ATM, Buell will attend neither of his $35,800-per-plate fundraisers in San Francisco, nor a fundraising rally at the Masonic Auditorium.
Buell is a loyal Democrat, but says she hasn't yet opened her wallet for Obama's campaign and probably won't anytime soon.
"I've just given so much money away, and I've never asked for anything," she said in an interview at her Pacific Heights home this week. Now, "I'm asking for something: He's got to be a leader."
Buell and her husband, Mark Buell, have long devoted energy and money to environmental causes such as the Go Green Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit designed to get young people involved in environmental causes. She said she is "very concerned that President Obama has not talked enough about this issue."
"I thought that he really did understand 'the urgency of now' on climate change," she said. "He has not been vocal enough ... and I want to encourage him to lead me."
Buell's glaring absence from Obama's fundraising events this week underscores the challenges the president has with his progressive base...