Among the White House’s top demands for new revenue are changes in the tax code affecting hedge funds, private equity firms and real estate partnerships, which would raise an estimated $20 billion over 10 years.
For the past four years, Cantor has taken the lead in the House on fighting the same changes. He also has been one of the top recipients of contributions from those industries — last year, his two fundraising committees took in nearly $2 million from securities and investment firms and real estate companies, more than double the figure for Boehner (R-Ohio).
The hedge fund and private equity proposals were at the center of Cantor’s decision to exit talks with Vice President Biden this month. Since then, the prospect for any immediate tax increases has declined, with the focus turning to spending cuts and broader tax reform postponed.
This dismays Democrats, in part because Cantor has cast his defense of the investment tax treatment as part of the broader tea party-fueled anti-tax orthodoxy. To Democrats, Cantor embodies the convergence of tea party and business interests, which is often obscured by the movement’s anti-Wall Street rhetoric.
“This [anti-tax stance] isn’t all coming up from the grass roots,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “This goes to some longtime cozy relationships between House Republicans and hedge fund managers in the financial sector.”
A spokesman for Cantor noted that he always has opposed raising the investment taxes in question but declined to comment further.
Cantor has said repeatedly that Obama and other Democrats are exaggerating the value of closing tax loopholes for financiers. Although Cantor opposes closing them to raise revenue, he says he is open to doing so as part of broader tax reform that lowers overall rates.
“So I know it makes for good politics to throw the shiny ball out there . . . that somehow Republicans are wed to that kind of policy to sustain these preferences, when all along, in our budget and in our plan, we have said we’re for tax reform, we have said we’re for bringing down rates on everybody,” he said on the House floor last week.
Jennifer Thompson, a political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and former Republican campaign operative, said Cantor’s longtime opposition to the investment tax provisions is a sincere reflection of his conservatively inclined district.
“Eric Cantor is a Virginian and you can’t separate too much from that fact,” she said. “His constituents are very much aligned with the no taxes and being back in the black and that’s what Eric Cantor represents.”