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Cantor’s next act: GOP power broker?

Cantor’s next act: GOP power broker?
© Greg Nash

Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorTrump gives Dave Brat his 'total endorsement' Former TV journalist gives GOP rare dose of hope in Florida Dave Brat trailing in reelection bid MORE has punched his ticket to Wall Street, landing a job that will boost his behind-the-scenes fundraising operation and make him one of the GOP’s top ambassadors to the financial world.

But don’t expect the recently ousted House majority leader to stay out of the public eye for long.

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Aides close to the Virginia Republican expect Cantor will eventually return to the political arena to make his voice heard on issues ranging from healthcare to education to foreign policy.

“I think at the appropriate time, he will engage in the kind of conversations that he had as leader but from a different position in the field,” said John Murray, a longtime adviser to Cantor. “He’s passionate about policy and about ideas he championed while in Congress. You don’t do that as long as he did, then wake up one day and decide you’re not going to do it anymore.”

Cantor’s surprise primary defeat to Tea Party challenger Dave Brat rocked the political world in June and halted what many presumed would be his eventual rise to the Speakership.

But Cantor’s new multimillion-dollar gig with New York-based investment bank Moelis & Co. comes as little surprise, given that he had cultivated close ties to Wall Street during his 13 years on Capitol Hill.

Cantor isn’t going far. He’ll open a Washington, D.C., office for Moelis and serve as the bank’s vice chairman and managing director, providing strategic counsel while helping to bring on new clients. He will serve on the publicly traded firm’s board of directors but will not lobby on behalf of Moelis.

While he’ll split time between Moelis’s offices in D.C. and New York, Cantor will keep his residence in Richmond, Va., rather than relocate to Manhattan or Northern Virginia, aides said. That decision is fanning speculation Cantor could have his eye on higher office, including a possible gubernatorial bid in 2017.

Several political observers, however, said a banking job on Wall Street is an unlikely path to the governor’s mansion, given that it attracts the wrath of the same Tea Party conservatives who unseated him.

“I think he is done running,” said one D.C. lobbyist who has clients on Wall Street. “He will enjoy the money.”

“If you run for governor, this is not the job you pursue,” added a Republican source. “But Cantor wants his cake and to eat it too, getting a massive financial windfall from his new job but working on rebuilding his connections to his state party for a potential run down the road.”

The Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund blasted out a statement on Tuesday saying that Cantor’s new job reinforced criticism that he was “paying more attention to Wall Street than to the people of Virginia’s 7th District.”

Cantor aides have tried to tamp down any chatter about another run for public office, but aren’t ruling it out completely.

“He expects this to be a significant and long-term job for him, and he is not looking at or evaluating any public office,” said Murray, Cantor’s former deputy chief of staff who left in 2011 to help launch the Cantor-backed super-PAC called YG Action Fund.

At least in the short term, Cantor won’t be “actively engaged” in political fundraising, Murray said. But the seven-term lawmaker could continue to hold sway in his party by turning to his Wall Street network to raise cash for like-minded Senate and House GOP candidates.

Cantor’s leadership PAC raised $5.5 million during the 2012 cycle and another $3.9 million this cycle, according to opensecrets.org. Some of the top donors included employees of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Credit Suisse Group.

In the 2014 cycle, Cantor sent cash to 200 House candidates and six Senate candidates, including Reps. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Dem path to a Senate majority narrows GOP shrugs off dire study warning of global warming Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senators face Wednesday vote on Trump health plans rule | Trump officials plan downtime for ObamaCare website | Lawmakers push for action on reducing maternal deaths MORE of West Virginia and incumbent Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senators face Wednesday vote on Trump health plans rule | Trump officials plan downtime for ObamaCare website | Lawmakers push for action on reducing maternal deaths Bipartisan group of senators ask Trump to increase focus on maternal deaths 7 law enforcement officers shot in South Carolina MORE of South Carolina.

“He can definitely continue to be an outstanding fundraiser for Republicans because of his ever-widening connections to the Wall Street financial community,” said GOP strategist Ron Bonjean, who worked with Cantor when he served as chief deputy whip.

“Now, he can serve as an adviser and an ambassador on behalf of Republicans to help Wall Street further understand how the Republican Party views major issues of their concern,” Bonjean said, including sales taxes for online retailers, credit card swipe fees and changes to the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Cantor and Ken Moelis, the investment firm’s chairman and CEO, have known each other for several years, and Moelis was one of the people the former leader reached out to for advice after his historic upset, aides said. It was during a lunch with their wives in Los Angeles in July that the two men first discussed the possibility of Cantor joining the firm.

“When I considered options for the next chapter of my career, I knew I wanted to join a firm with a great entrepreneurial spirit that focused on its clients,” Cantor said in a statement. “The new model of independent banks offering conflict free advice, in a smaller more intimate environment, was a place where I knew my skills could help clients succeed.”   

As majority leader, Cantor earned $193,400 a year. His agreement with Moelis hands him a huge payday: He’ll earn an annual base salary of $400,000 and will receive a $400,000 signing bonus plus $1 million in restricted stock, according to a filing from the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2015, the firm will give Cantor at least $1.2 million in incentive-based cash payment and $400,000 in restricted stock.