For the next four days, Wall Street is moving uptown.
The Republican National Convention, which opens Monday at Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan, is being bankrolled and feted to an extraordinary degree by the financial services behemoths that are concentrated at the island's southern tip.
Hardly a meal or cocktail hour will pass that won't find a securities firm or a venture capitalist hosting members of Congress, key committee staffers, Republican Party officials and governors who control the investment of state pension funds. From a pier along the Hudson River to a penthouse atop a central city skyscraper, thousands of conventioneers will be fed and entertained by financial bigwigs.
The convention itself is significantly underwritten by the same firms. According to the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute, 31 of the 78 major benefactors, or 40 percent, are companies and individuals involved in finance, insurance, accounting or banking. By conservative unofficial estimates, these interests have raised at least $25 million. At the Democratic convention in Boston earlier this month, only 19 percent of the big donors -- 21 of the 110 givers listed by the convention -- were part of the financial industry.
Financial firms play a huge role in Manhattan's economy and are all but expected to make Republican visitors feel welcome, Wall Street executives said. "You're at the financial center of the world, and so it's only natural that we'll be hosting events in our headquarter city," said L. Thomas Block, global head of government affairs at J.P. Morgan Chase and Co.
But more to the point, the firms, which lean Republican in their political giving, are eager to show their gratitude to President Bush and GOP lawmakers for enacting legislation providing billions of dollars in tax and other benefits to their industry and for Bush's pledge to seek even deeper tax cuts.
The capital gains and dividend tax cuts alone will cost the federal government $125.3 billion in lost revenue through 2010, according to official estimates. Similarly, the Bush-backed repeal of the estate tax, at a 10-year cost of $133.2 billion, has encouraged wealthy investors to continue buying securities without fear of large tax penalties on their estates.
"No administration has done more for the investor than President Bush and this Congress," said Richard J. Hunt, a senior vice president of the Securities Industry Association. Events and festivities, he said, are "a way to honor those members of Congress who helped our industry."
And honor they will. J.P. Morgan Chase is holding its usual salute to female members of Congress -- an event that mirrors one at the Democratic convention. The company will also help sponsor several other events with SIA, the Bond Market Association, the American Bankers Association and the Financial Services Forum. The SIA and the Bond Market Association are holding a party Wednesday in a large loft to honor Rep. Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio) and the Republican members of his House Financial Services Committee, which oversees laws governing the industry.
In fact, events paying homage to Oxley's committee are scheduled for each of the next three days, including a Monday night reception at the Rainbow Room headlined by crooner Frank Sinatra Jr.
Sunday night, Gloria Gaynor entertained Republicans at the Irving Ballroom at a party for Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.), a Financial Services Committee member. The event was sponsored by the accounting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. Other companies and trade associations had been invited to co-sponsor the event for contributions of $5,000 to $30,000, said people familiar with the event.
Other scheduled parties on published calendars include a reception sponsored by the American Bankers Association to honor Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and another gathering for Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-La.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government. Baker's "invitation only" event, "A Salute to Capital Markets," is sponsored by the National Association of Securities Dealers.
The dominant fund-givers for the Bush presidential campaign are the chief executives and senior management officials of financial services and accounting firms. Dwight L. Morris & Associates, which tracks contribution patterns, says the top 10 employers of contributors to Bush include Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, $517,680; Merrill Lynch & Co., $486,154; PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, $484,150; and UBS Financial Services Inc., $355,650.
In addition, each of these firms can boast "Rangers" and "Pioneers" -- bundlers, respectively, of at least $200,000 and $100,000 in contributions to the Bush reelection effort -- in high management positions.
In contrast, only two of the employers of Democratic nominee John F. Kerry's biggest contributors are Wall Street firms, Goldman Sachs Group LP, which is ranked third at $199,300, and Citigroup Inc., which is No. 8 at $162,754. In addition, the financial services industry has contributed through employees a total of $8.7 million to the major Democratic Party committees, far less than the $12.2 million it has forked over to Republican counterparts.
Republican officials have yet to say how much the biggest contributors to the convention have given or raised. However, a majority of the 13-member fundraising committee for the event comes from the financial world.
The members include John Costas, chief executive of UBS Investment Bank; Joseph J. Grano, chief executive of UBS Paine Webber; Henry R. Kravis, founding partner of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., and his wife, Marie-Josee Kravis; Henry M. Paulson Jr., chief executive of the Goldman Sachs Group; and David Rockefeller, former chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank.