Wall Street executives turn back on Obama, start donating to Romney

Wall Street executives turn back on Obama, start donating to Romney

Dozens of Wall Street executives who supported President Obama in 2008 have donated to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign this year.

According to a review of fundraising data, 67 people who work in the financial sector and live in the New York City metro area gave to Obama in 2008 and to the former Massachusetts governor in 2011.


The reversals come in the wake of Obama's tough rhetoric on Wall Street — most notably last year, when the president was pushing Congress to pass what has become known as the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

The 67 individuals who live in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut donated at least once to Obama's 2008 campaign. They have since directed contributions amounting to more than $147,000 toward Romney's presidential campaign.

The crossover donors are employed by a large number of banks, private equity firms and hedge-fund companies, including Credit Suisse, The Blackstone Group, Stanwich Group and Goldman Sachs.

One of the donors is Joshua Harris of Apollo Management, who recently bought the Philadelphia 76ers. Others include Oscar Schafer of OSS Capital Management, David Solomon of Goldman Sachs, Barry Sternlight with the Starwood Capital Group and David Blitzer of the Blackstone Group.

One Wall Street executive, who requested anonymity, said he and some of his colleagues feel betrayed by Obama.

"Everybody I speak to is on the same boat — disappointment," said the source, who contributed to Obama three years ago and is now backing Romney.

The executive said he and others on Wall Street have taken exception to Obama's rhetoric about the wealthy, especially because the president has asked rich donors to fork over $35,800 to his reelection efforts.

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"It's not healthy for rich people to feel maligned," the executive said.

Other donors who backed Obama in 2008 and have given to Romney recently declined to comment or did not return The Hill's phone calls.

Wall Street is known for hedging its bets, and many of the 67 identified for this article did so in 2008.

For example, 36 of the 67 Wall Street executives donated to Republican presidential candidates in 2008, and 15 gave to Romney. Harris, the new owner of the 76ers, was among the 15 who donated to both Romney and Obama during the last presidential cycle.

Only three of the 67 have given to Obama this year, despite a huge press by the president and his advisers to raise cash this year. Obama raised an impressive $86 million during the second quarter of 2011.

Based on an analysis of their political contributions, 16 of the 67 are strong supporters of the Democratic Party, while five are firm backers of the GOP.

Throughout the debt-limit negotiations, Obama focused on the wealthy, claiming their taxes should be increased to help reduce the deficit.

In 2009, he called Wall Street bonuses "shameful."

Yet, Obama still has his share of supporters on Wall Street. He reportedly raised $2.4 million from Wall Street donors during an event at a New York restaurant in June.

A recent report from the Center for Responsive Politics found that Obama has leaned on Wall Street more than he did when he launched his first presidential bid. The report found that one-third of the money Obama has raised for his reelection came from the financial sector.

Romney, meanwhile, is no stranger to Wall Street, having co-founded the private equity firm Bain Capital.

Larry Parnell, professor of political management at George Washington University, said it was not uncommon for Republican donors to back Obama in 2008. Wealthy donors on Wall Street felt the same optimism and hope about Obama's candidacy and promises of change that had attracted other independents and centrist Republicans, he explained.

Expectations were high for Obama, and when rich donors became disappointed, it caused many of them “who once had 'hope' bumper stickers on their limousines” to re-evaluate, he said.

Parnell added that financial support for Romney could be attributable to his front-runner status: "This is classic market behavior. Jump on the hot growth stock (Obama), and jump off when it doesn't pan out. Romney is safe; he's blue-chip — for now."

The Democratic National Committee and Romney's presidential campaign did not comment for this article.

—Margaret Rawson and Molly Turpin contributed to this article.