Obama campaign attracts Wall Street money, despite tensions

July 22, 2011

So much for President Obama’s Wall Street problem.

About a third of the money his top fundraisers have brought in this year has come from the financial sector, suggesting that strained relations with Wall Street have not hurt the president’s ability to attract donations there for his reelection campaign, according to data released Friday by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The numbers represent a notable increase from 2008, when bundlers in the investment and banking arena accounted for about 20 percent of the total brought in by top fundraisers for Obama.

The data suggest that the president has been at least partly successful in stopping a shift in Wall Street contributions away from Democrats and toward Republicans over the past two years. Business leaders have frequently clashed with the White House over far-reaching new financial regulations, proposals to close tax loopholes for hedge-fund managers and other policies.

Republicans have sought to take advantage of the rift by openly courting Wall Street donors. The top sources of corporate money for presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who reported raising $18.3 million, include contributions from employees of Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and other financial firms, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Between his 2012 campaign and the Democratic National Committee, Obama raised a combined total of $86 million in the second quarter, much of which was brought in by 244 supporters, each of whom bundled at least $50,000 worth of contributions.

Eighty of those bundlers work in the finance, insurance and real estate sectors, according to the analysis. More than half of that group work specifically in the securities and investment industry, and nine are listed as having raised $500,000 or more.

Among the biggest bundlers in this category are former New Jersey governor and financial services executive Jon S. Corzine; Orin Kramer of Boston Provident; and Mark and Nancy Gilbert of Barclays, who are listed as a couple.

Michael Beckel, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, which analyzes money in politics, said Obama’s apparent success in holding on to Wall Street support speaks in part to the power of incumbency.

“At the end of the day, everyone likes a winner, including Wall Street,” Beckel said. “Some on Wall Street might harbor hurt feelings and switch to the Republican side, but others are going to swallow their pride and write a check to Obama. He’s still an incumbent president, and incumbents are hard to beat.”

The Obama campaign has sought to play down its big-dollar donations, focusing instead on its aggressive effort to lure small donors giving as little as $5. Aides say the average contribution for Obama donors through June was $69.

“Unlike the Republican candidates, we reject contributions from special-interest PACs and Washington lobbyists,” Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said. “Instead, we relied on contributions from more than 520,000 Americans, 98 percent of whose contributions came in amounts of $250 or less.”

Obama is so far the only presidential candidate to release a bundler list, which is not required under FEC rules. GOP presidential candidates John McCain (Ariz.), in 2008, and George W. Bush, in 2004, released similar lists.

Romney has identified six registered lobbyists who raised a combined $500,000, a step required under disclosure legislation Obama co-sponsored when he was in the Senate. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty also identified one lobbyist bundler.

The Obama campaign has not provided precise data on how much money the bundlers have raised. But the total is at least $35 million, based on the minimum values identified by the campaign; bundlers in the financial sector account for about a third of that.

In the entire 2008 cycle, bundlers in the finance sector accounted for about $16 million of $76.5 million brought in by top Obama fundraisers, the Center for Responsive Politics said. Obama raised a total of $745 million in his first White House run.

Deputy Editor, National Politics
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