PHILADELPHIA — Robert Wolf has been called everything from President Obama’s “fat cat" banker buddy to “the real Wolf of Wall Street;” now the former investment banker is fully entrenched in Clinton World.
Visiting Philadelphia this week for the Democratic National Convention, Wolf is making an argument that some on the right might view as a shocking: namely, that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE should be the choice of fiscal conservatives in November.
“My view is a lot of the business community will support the secretary because her business policies are better,” Wolf told The Hill in an interview at the marble-topped bar in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton in downtown Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Wolf, a former president of UBS Investment Bank and a top economic adviser, donor and fundraiser for Obama, is emerging as a powerful ally, both in public and private, for Clinton’s campaign.
Wolf said that most business people he deals with “lean left socially and lean right fiscally.”
“And I think when you look at leaning right fiscally, if you look at her plan versus Trump’s,” Clinton’s comes out on top, he said.
Analysts have estimated that the tax plan Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE released during his primary campaign would lead to a revenue loss of at least $10 trillion over the next decade, whereas Clinton’s would have a more modest impact on revenues due to higher taxes, Wolf noted.
“So if you are fiscally responsive you would be pro-Hillary versus Trump."
In a Democratic Party where the populist left — led by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war Congress must address the looming debt crisis MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' The Trojan Horse of protectionism Federal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review MORE (D-Mass.) — uses the term “Wall Street” as a synonym for economic injustice, Wolf offers a different perspective.
He’s a bridge not only to Obama — a personal friend and regular golfing buddy — but also to the center-left economic policies that Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonVirginia governor's race enters new phase as early voting begins Business coalition aims to provide jobs to Afghan refugees Biden nominates ex-State Department official as Export-Import Bank leader MORE championed when he occupied the White House in the 1990s.
Wolf, who said he is planning to write a six-figure check to Clinton’s fundraising committee, supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which both Clinton and Trump oppose.
And he says he’s a “bit tired” of political candidates painting “Wall Street” with a broad brush.
“I know a lot of people think that Wall Street only votes their pocket book or only votes because of regulation, and I wholeheartedly disagree,” Wolf said.
“Wall Street are Americans just like everyone else. Please don’t stereotype us. We vote for a lot of different reasons, and I would actually say regulation is the least reason we vote because we know regulation is here.”
Wolf says his role in Clinton World is strictly informal.
“There’s no formal role. … I like to say I’m a non-surrogate surrogate,” he said.
“I’m someone that has the good fortune of being able to email Secretary Clinton, [Clinton campaign chairman] John Podesta and [senior policy adviser] Jake Sullivan directly on things I’m thinking and ideas. … I give them my best ideas, and I feel at times honored that they decide to listen to them."
Wolf isn’t alone in his support of Clinton. The “securities and investment” industry — the best approximation for Wall Street and the financial services industry — is the top sector in terms of contributions to Clinton's campaign and super-PAC.
The industry has given Clinton and her allied groups $41.4 million so far, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Trump is far less popular than Clinton on Wall Street, despite his finance operation being headed by Manhattan banker Steven Mnuchin.
Trump's campaign and super-PACs have received just $109,000 so far from the securities and investment industry, according to the Center’s data. Trump's top donor category is "retired" — a group that has given $3.8 million so far to Trump's campaign and super-PACs.
Wolf, who now runs a drone services company and an infrastructure advisory firm, says he’s been focusing most of his advice to the Clinton campaign on infrastructure policy.
“The thing I have focused the most on is infrastructure, as a core part of her policy,” he said.
“It’s clear to me that both from an economic and jobs and growth perspective, it’s the most important thing we could do as a country. It’s the fastest multiplier of GDP growth.”
Wolf is also taking his pro-Clinton arguments to the conservative media, acting as a liaison to the center-right corporate community that’s giving her an extra close look this year due to distaste for Trump.
Such outreach makes Wolf a rare species of Democrat in this hyper-partisan era.
Wolf says he genuinely enjoys appearing on Fox News and Fox Business, the networks favored by conservatives that are reviled by the left.
“This week a lot of the surrogates … will be on shows that are a lot more left-leaning, and so I’m working on the shows on Fox, and to date it’s been great,” he said.
“I think it’s important that people who may not necessarily align with a lot of Hillary’s views at least hear her views in a very solid and honest approach; because I actually think when they listen to her views on the economy … I think we have a chance to change a lot of what I would say the center-right Republicans and independents minds.”
“I don’t struggle going on; I enjoy going on. I’m a guy with big shoulders and I can take the punches and give the punches,” he added.
The big shoulders statement is literally true — a remnant of his career as a college fullback for the Penn Quakers.
"Played right here in Philly at Franklin Field," he told The Hill.
Wolf said he probably wouldn’t do much fundraising for the Clinton campaign, because they’ve already got the goodwill of most of his friends on Wall Street and in the business community.
And he says when he gives advice, he won’t be stepping outside of his natural realm of economic policy.
“I’m always staying within my sandbox,” he said. “It’s not like I give my ideas on healthcare and foreign policy. … They’d probably say, ‘Really Robert?’”
“My role is to give my best ideas, and not to worry whether they decide to use them or not because there’s a lot of other people giving their best ideas,” he added.
“And if they decide to use them or ask me a follow-up, I actually feel great about it.
“But for somebody with a big ego I actually keep my ego pretty much in check when it comes to them. Because they have a lot of great ideas, and who am I to say what fits in their puzzle?”