Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bullish billionaire Warren Buffett worked hard to elect Barack Obama as president last year, serving as a fundraiser, adviser and prominent vocal supporter. Turns out there’s good reason: They’re family.

Nobody is suggesting nepotism was involved, but genealogical research has now revealed that Mr. Obama, the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, and the sage of Omaha, Neb., are seventh cousins three times removed, related through a 17th-century Frenchman named Mareen Duvall.

Duvall, who immigrated to Maryland in the 1650s, is Mr. Obama’s ninth great-grandfather and Mr. Buffett’s sixth great-grandfather. Arriving as an indentured servant and working his way up, Duvall bought a plantation in Anne Arundel County, Md., and was “conservative in his political life,” according to researchers at Ancestry.com, which made the discovery.

“We’ve all watched President Obama and Warren Buffett’s ongoing association, from Buffett’s official endorsement of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign to their sometimes differing views on economic policy,” said Anastasia Tyler, a genealogist at Ancestry.com.

“Like most family members, the president and Buffett may not always agree on everything, but this latest discovery confirming they are related may shed light on why the two seem to see eye-to-eye on many issues.”

After his early unequivocal endorsement, Mr. Buffett has taken issue with some of his distant relative’s policies. He called Mr. Obama’s “cap-and-trade” policy on climate change “regressive” and “a huge tax” on middle-income Americans. And earlier this year, the billionaire investor said Mr. Obama is trying to do too much: “You can’t expect people to unite behind you if you’re trying to jam a whole bunch of things down their throat.”

Oddly, though, the world’s second richest man — Forbes magazine put his fortune at $37 billion — endorses the president’s plan to tax the rich.

Mr. Obama wrote in his memoir that when the two men met in 2006, Mr. Buffett told the then-Illinois senator that “the market isn’t so good at making sure that the wealth that’s produced is being distributed fairly or wisely. … Those of us who’ve benefited most from the market should pay a bigger share.”

During the 2008 presidential campaign, it was revealed that Mr. Obama is related to former President George W. Bush (11th cousins) and former Vice President Dick Cheney (ninth cousins once removed). Duvall and his wife, Susannah, were Mr. Obama’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents and Mr. Cheney’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents.

Earlier this year, Ancestry.com confirmed that Mr. Obama has German roots through his sixth great-grandfather, Johann Conrad Wolfley, from Besigheim, Wuerttemberg, Germany.

In addition, actor Brad Pitt and Mr. Obama are ninth cousins who share a relative who died in 1769.

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