Republicans beating Clinton, Dems in Wall Street donations

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Hillary Clinton — who used lavish donations from New York’s financial district to fund her career as a U.S. senator — is struggling to reclaim the advantage she once held over Republicans.  

Instead, Wall Street donors are favoring Republicans over Democrats in the 2016 campaign — a reversal from the last time Clinton ran for president when she and then-Sen. Barack Obama out-raised their GOP rivals with the financial sector’s cash. 

{mosads}In fact, despite lagging in the polls, performing poorly in debates and being nowhere near as sure a bet as Clinton is for his party’s nomination, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has so far taken more than five times as much Wall Street money as Clinton into his campaign and super-PAC. 

Bush has already raised more than $30 million from Wall Street, according to an analysis of the latest Federal Election Commission data by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics done for The Hill, which looked at donations from a range of firms in the commercial banking, securities, and investments industries.  

Clinton, on the other hand, has received just $5.9 million from Wall Street into her campaign and super-PAC, less than half of that raised by Tea Party conservative Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who received $12.5 million, most of which came from hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer. 

Clinton has raised only slightly more financial sector money than struggling Republican candidate Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), who has taken in $5.2 million.  

Wall Street donors began moving away from Democrats during Obama’s first term. After charming hedge fund managers and investment bankers during his campaign of “hope and change,” Obama, once in office, quickly angered these same supporters when he passed the Dodd-Frank regulations on the financial industry. 

Their frustration was exacerbated when, in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes, the president said he did not run for office to help out “a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street.” 

One donor who supported Obama in 2008 but backed Romney in 2012 is New York financier Anthony Scaramucci, currently a Bush fundraiser. 

“I support[ed] Senator Obama because of our law school connection and I thought he would be more moderate. Nothing more,” said Scaramucci, describing himself as a “lifelong Republican.” 

Asked whether he thought Obama’s “fat cat” comment had any influence on Wall Street donors leaving the president for Romney, Scaramucci replied, “That was one of the reasons, and also the anti-business rhetoric.” 

When Obama first ran, Wall Street donors spent nearly double on the Democratic presidential candidate as they did on his rival, Arizona Sen. John McCain.  

Yet by the end of the 2012 campaign, Wall Street donors had given $64.3 million to Mitt Romney and $19.3 million to the same man they had poured money into just four years before and who was running as the sitting president.  

Such a drastic switch of support is historically remarkable. CRP’s analysis shows that campaign contributions from the financial sector have historically been fairly evenly divided between parties, though with a slight bias toward Republicans.  

Embodying that Wall Street cash migration is hedge fund billionaire Daniel Loeb who, after giving Obama’s campaign the maximum $2,300 contribution in 2008, switched his support to Romney in 2012. Loeb, who ultimately spent more than $130,000 opposing Obama last election, has not yet given to any presidential candidate this cycle, according to FEC records.  

Showing his frustration with Obama during the president’s first term, Loeb reportedly wrote in a letter to his investors: “So long as our leaders tell us that we must trust them to regulate and redistribute our way back to prosperity, we will not break out of this economic quagmire.” 

Through a spokeswoman, Loeb declined to comment for this article. 

A number of Wall Street donors who supported Obama in 2008 and switched to Romney in 2012 told The Hill they would not return to Democrats this election.  

In a phone interview, one such donor said that in 2008, he got “swept up” by the enthusiasm of electing the first African-American president and by Obama’s promise to transcend partisanship. Now he feels burned by Obama.  

“I know a lot of us will not be going back [to Democrats],” the donor said, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to draw unwanted attention to his bank. 

Yet despite Obama’s relative unpopularity with Wall Street, Clinton could not entirely blame the sitting president for being so far being behind Bush with financial sector cash. 

The Democratic Party has moved sharply against Wall Street and toward economic populism since Clinton last ran for president. Her rival Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is thrilling the party’s base by using the same bank-bashing rhetoric that has made Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren the party’s liberal hero. 

A Sanders stump speech typically involves a call to “break up” the big banks, a proposal to fund free college education by putting “a tax on Wall Street speculation” and a tirade against a “billionaire class” that he blames for America’s social and economic malaise.  

While Clinton has not gone so far as Sanders in attacking Wall Street, the fact that she felt obliged to defend the very concept of capitalism during the last Democratic debate suggests how far leftward the party has swung from her husband’s centrist administration. 

An example of Wall Street’s switch in party allegiance can be found by examining the donation records of executives at Goldman Sachs.  

In 2008, Goldman Sachs employees overwhelmingly supported Democrats in general, and Obama in particular. By the end of the campaign Obama had received $1 million from the firm’s employees compared with $231,000 for McCain. 

But in 2012, Goldman Sachs staff — who were portrayed largely by Democrats as pariahs during the financial crisis and whose CEO Lloyd Blankfein was publicly castigated in a Democrat-led senate hearing — swung their financial support behind the Republican candidate for president. Romney ended up receiving $1 million from the firm, more than five times as much as Goldman Sachs staff gave to Obama over the course of the election.  

Clinton has long enjoyed friendly relations with Goldman Sachs. The investment bank’s employees are her second most generous company donors over the course of her political career, according to CRP’s analysis.  

Yet so far in 2016, the firm’s employees have donated just $67,000 to Clinton’s campaign. Bush’s campaign has already received $198,000 from Goldman Sachs.  

A spokesman for Goldman Sachs declined to comment on the donation patterns of the company’s employees. 

One of Bush’s biggest donors, who works in finance, says it is no secret that Wall Street would prefer Clinton to Obama. 

“Ninety percent of Wall Street hates Obama,” the donor said in a phone interview. “Actually, I shouldn’t say 90 percent, that’s a bit harsh. What I mean is they know they’d be better off with Hillary.”   

So far, though, that has not been evident.

Tags Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton Jeb Bush John McCain Ted Cruz Wall Street

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