T.W. Farnam
The Influence Industry

Wall Street investing in Romney

Mitt Romney has been raising a lot of money from the financial sector in recent months as he criticizes a historic package of new industry regulations signed by President Obama last year, according to campaign financial reports filed last week.

The largest corporate sources of money for Romney are mostly finance industry leaders , including Morgan Stanley and Bank of America. Goldman Sachs employees have given nearly a quarter of a million dollars in contributions.

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Corporations with employees who made big campaign contributions to presidential candidates.
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Corporations with employees who made big campaign contributions to presidential candidates.

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A look at some of the financial information released recently by the presidential candidates.
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A look at some of the financial information released recently by the presidential candidates.

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Romney led the other Republican presidential contenders on the fundraising front during the second quarter, raising more than $18 million, while none of his competitors crossed the $5 million mark. The keys to his success appear to be large donors and contributors from the New York area.

Nearly three-quarters of Romney’s money came from donors giving the maximum $2,500 contribution, and one in eight of Romney’s donors live in New York City and its suburbs.

Romney’s campaign officials say they see the contributions as a referendum on Obama's handling of the economy.

“To the extent anyone is supporting Mitt Romney over President Obama it is because of the state of the economy and the president’s failure to create jobs,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. “President Obama and his political team have signaled they will spend a billion dollars to hold on to power and, given the nation’s dismal jobs picture, it is understandable why they will need a billion.”

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt countered, “Unlike the Republican candidates, we don’t accept a dime from special interest PACs or Washington lobbyists — more than 520,000 Americans have funded our campaign.”

The reports show that Romney appears to be getting less money from at least one source, Utah. In 2008, the state’s donors contributed more money to Romney than those from any other state, a fact widely attributed to Romney’s role heading the Salt Lake City Olympics and his Mormon faith. This year, another Mormon is in the race — Jon Huntsman. And the state’s donors have been less generous to Romney, both in absolute dollars and as a percentage of his fundraising, accounting for 7.6 percent of his total, down from 11 percent four years ago.

Romney isn’t close to matching the $86 million raised by Obama and the Democratic National Committee, but in some ways the former private-equity executive's campaign did a better job attracting big donors. Romney’s campaign had more than 5,000 people giving the maximum $2,500. Obama, by contrast, had 3,300 donors contributing $2,500 or more.

Obama ended up ahead in the end, in part because of his appeal to small donors and also because his donors were able to give up to $35,800 after the campaign directed some of the money to the DNC. If Romney were to secure the Republican nomination, he could begin soliciting the same $30,000 checks for the Republican National Committee from his donor list.

Despite Obama’s support for the new regulations unpopular on Wall Street, his report lists many contributions from finance industry employees (companies are not allowed to contribute directly to federal candidates).

Goldman Sachs employees, who are perennial big givers, were the largest source of money for Obama, donating a total of $127,000. In the 2008 campaign, the company’s employees were the top corporate source of money for both Obama and Romney, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. A spokesman for Goldman declined to comment.

The president had a higher percentage of contributions from the New York area than Romney — more that 16 percent of the donors on his report.

Several of the companies topping the list for Obama employ his biggest fundraisers, according to a list of volunteer fundraisers, or “bundlers,” released by the campaign last week.

The trading firm MF Global is led by Jon Corzine, the former New Jersey governor, who has raised at least $500,000 for Obama, according to the campaign’s list. A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment.

The Obama campaign said last week that Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen has bundled more than half a million dollars for the president. Comcast employees donated $114,895 to Obama in the second quarter, according to his campaign disclosure report.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty appears to be heavily dependent on his existing donor network, with more than a quarter of the donors listed on his report living in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. A campaign spokesman declined to comment.

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