"I honest to God don't remember another White House in the 24 years I've been doing this that exclusively meets with corporate CEOs," said Josten.
Whether that happens remains to be seen. Most in the business community make little secret they want someone other than Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett to be their point-of-contact in the White House, but there's little expectation she will be replaced.
Some say the steps taken by the president since winning re-election have been encouraging thus far for a more productive relationship, creating a sense among some that, even if the president and his team won't acknowledge any prior mistakes, they're at least ready to turn the page.
"I think it will be constructive, I think it has to be constructive," said Bill Miller, senior vice president at the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs at large U.S. companies. "I don't think the president wants the economy to fail, and neither do America's business leaders."
Miller mentioned energy and regulatory policy as two areas where the business community and White House can hopefully see cooperation. But, in the eyes of some skeptics, happy talk about better outreach misses a more important point: Obama's policies often collide with the private-sector's interests. And those policies, said former George W. Bush aide Tony Fratto, are unlikely to change.
"There are some in the business community who want to believe this is a thawing in the relationship," he said. "And the business community is being deluded if they do believe that. If they think there's going to be some change in nature of how the Obama administration deals with them in terms of policy, then they are deluding themselves."
President Obama's meeting Wednesday with business leaders, his second such get-together since Election Day, is a sure sign he is intent on repairing a troubled relationship known more for its conflict than partnership during his first term. But when the private-sector tycoons gather in the White House, they'll feel just as much pressure to make things right.
Only a month ago, many in the business community were openly trying to defeat the president. They denounced him as anti-business and funneled tens of millions of dollars to Mitt Romney's campaign. By one measure, the Center for Responsive Politics found the finance, insurance and real estate sector alone contributed $52 million to the Republican, or three times more than the $18 million it gave to Obama.
Obama won, and he earned not only another four years in office but another term just as lawmakers are set to consider a raft of measures "“ like tax and entitlement reform "“ of critical importance to most businesses. In other words, the man they were openly hostile toward now has leverage of them and their fate. Making amends with the president isn't just good publicity, it might be a necessity for the health of their bottom lines.
"They made a big bet, and they lost," said Stan Collender, a former Democratic staffer on the House and Senate budget committees. "And now they have to, if not grovel, make it clear they'll work with the administration."
There are signs they already have. Some Republicans have already begun grumbling that apparent attempt at reconciliation has been evident amid the onset of the fiscal cliff negotiations. The business-backed group Fix The Debt, an organization ostensibly pushing for both sides to strike a grand bargain to reduce the country's deficit, has drawn conservative ire for, in their opinion, focusing less on entitlement reform and more on raising taxes.
Some observers believe the tilt, however slight, is part of an implicit effort to extend an olive branch toward Obama "“ and the impetus for a Wednesday meeting between House GOP leaders and the group.
"Under the rubric of Fix The Debt, they have begun to fix their relations with the White House," said Steve Bell, a former Republican Senate staffer and senior director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center."
The group's pose might be reflective of a new strategy from the business community, business lobbyists say. In the last 12 months, they've been able to largely ignore working with the White House in hopes of installing a more favorable negotiator next year. But the fiscal cliff is just the first of a prominent set of issues that will consume Washington the next four years. In addition to possible dives into tax and entitlement reform, the administration will continue implementing the health care law and Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform.