Bain gives more campaign money to Democrats than it does to Republicans

Democrats have accepted more political donations than Republicans from executives at Bain Capital, complicating the left’s plan to attack Mitt Romney for his record at the private-equity firm.

During the last three election cycles, Bain employees have given Democratic candidates and party committees more than $1.2 million. The vast majority of that sum came from senior executives.

Republican candidates and party committees raised over $480,000 from senior Bain executives during that time period.

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Recipients include Democratic senators facing tough reelection races this year, such as Jon Tester (Mont.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Bill Nelson (Fla.).

The Hill reviewed contributions made from the 2008, 2010 and 2012 cycles.

Romney has collected more money from Bain Capital employees than any federal candidate since the beginning of 2007, amassing more than $166,000 in contributions. He took more than $84,000 from Bain employees in the first three quarters of 2011. 

But President Obama received a sizable share as well. He has accepted more than $80,000 from Bain employees since the beginning of 2007. Bain Capital employees gave $27,500 to Obama during the first three quarters of 2011.

The donations were reported to the Federal Election Commission and culled in a database created by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks federal campaign spending.

Obama does not accept money from lobbyists, but does accept donations from Wall Street executives. Campaign finance records show that Democrats collect more money from Wall Street than does the GOP.

The sums collected by Democrats from managing partners and other senior executives at Bain could hamper the Democratic message that Romney is a corporate raider who does not care about workers, charges based on his record as CEO of Bain.

Democrats could be forced to justify attacking Bain — which specializes in buying companies and boosting profitability, often by laying off workers — while accepting campaign funds from the same executives who made the cost-cutting decisions.

“They’re going to have a difficult time explaining why they’re padding their war chest with contributions from the same executives that they’re accusing of hurting jobs,” said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Democratic strategists disagree.

“What you have with Romney and Bain is a kid stuck with his hand in the cookie jar. There’s no question he had direct involvement in thousands of people losing their jobs and in some cases their homes,” said David Di Martino, a Democratic strategist. “That’s different than company executives at an investment fund making contributions to Democrats.”

Republican presidential candidates, most notably former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), have led the charge in ripping Romney about his tenure at Bain. But Democratic leaders have also criticized Romney’s record in the private sector, and liberal operatives say it will be a major theme of the 2012 election if he wins the GOP nomination.

“Mitt Romney, I think, is more of a job cremator than a job creator,” Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on a conference call with reporters earlier this month. “He was a corporate-buyout specialist at Bain Capital. He dismantled companies. He cut jobs. He forced companies into bankruptcy and he outsourced jobs and sent jobs overseas.”

Meanwhile, Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the assistant House Democratic leader, last week held a conference call on Romney’s record at which he criticized Bain for closing a photo-album factory in Gaffney, S.C. 

Despite the donations from Bain officials to Democrats, Romney is clearly on the defensive, according to Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

He said Obama will be able to use the bully pulpit to steer the national conversation.

“The president will be focusing on job impact instead of campaign contributions,” said West. 

Republicans have already tried to make campaign donations an issue in battleground states.

The Montana Republican Party ran television ads in the fall criticizing Tester from accepting more than $200,000 in contributions from lobbyists.

Tester received a $2,500 contribution from Joshua Beckenstein, a managing director at Bain Capital, in June of last year, according to a fundraising report.

McCaskill received $2,500 from Beckenstein in March and $5,000 from Jonathan Lavine, a Bain Capital investor, in June. 

Lavine also gave $1,000 to Brown in May of 2010, and $2,500 to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) in September of last year. Over the last three cycles, he gave nearly $90,000 to the Democratic National Committee, $78,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and $25,000 to sitting Democratic senators.

As of Dec. 21, fundraising reports show Bain employees gave $123,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Democratic fundraising advantage, however, was offset by at least $750,000 that Bain Capital employees gave to Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney super-PAC, in 2011.

Paul Edgerley, an investor at Bain Capital, gave $500,000 to Restore our Future in May. But Edgerly also donated to former Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.), who recently served as Democratic chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

In April and June, he gave two $2,500 contributions to Alan Khazei, a Democrat who was vying to take on Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). Khazei has since dropped out and endorsed Elizabeth Warren for the Senate Democratic nomination.

In the 2010 cycle, many Bain executives also gave to Steve Pagliuca (D), a managing director at Bain who sought to fill former Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) seat but lost in the primary.