Tears Of A Bull: Wall Street Complains Over Mistreatment

07/09/2010 09:31 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Despite this year's large spike in corporate profits and strong stock market performance, major political donors on Wall Street are abandoning the Democratic Party in large numbers in reaction to a perceived anti-business bias from Congress and the White House.

This "revolt among big donors on Wall Street is hurting fundraising for the Democrats' two congressional campaign committees, with contributions from the world's financial capital down 65 percent from two years ago," the Washington Post reported.

This fundraising free fall from the New York area has left Democrats with diminished resources to defend their House and Senate majorities in November's midterm elections. Although the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have seen just a 16 percent drop in overall donations compared with this stage of the 2008 campaign, party leaders are concerned about the loss of big-dollar donors.

Obama administration officials have responded by arguing emphatically that they're not out to get big business -- indeed, they say, Wall Street has much to be thankful for.

In a Thursday interview, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel argued that rather than recoiling against Obama, business leaders should be grateful for his support on at least a half-dozen counts: his advocacy of greater international trade and education reform open markets despite union skepticism; his rejection of calls from some quarters to nationalize banks during the financial meltdown; the rescue of the automobile industry; the fact that the overhaul of health care preserved the private delivery system; the fact that billions in the stimulus package benefited business with lucrative new contracts, and that financial regulation reform will take away the uncertainty that existed with a broken, pre-crash regulatory apparatus.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner took a similar line, telling CNBC this week, "We have a pro-growth agenda. Part of the agenda is growing exports. They're central to our future. ... [W]e're going to be committed to making sure we're that we're expanding opportunities for American business everywhere. Now, this president understands deeply that governments don't create jobs, businesses create jobs. And our job as government is try to make sure we're creating the conditions that allow businesses to prosper so they can hire people back, get this economy going again."

Writing in Friday's New York Times, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman argues that the cries of woe aren't coming from businesses but rather from business lobbyists: "peddling scare stories about what Democrats are up to is a large part of what organizations like the [Chamber of Commerce, the major business lobby] do for a living."

So why are we hearing so much about the alleged harm being inflicted by an antibusiness climate? For the most part it's the same old, same old: lobbyists trying to bully Washington into cutting taxes and dismantling regulations, while extracting bigger fees from their clients along the way.

Beyond that, business leaders are, as I said, feeling unloved: the financial crisis, health insurance scandals, and the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico have taken a toll on their reputation. Somehow, however, rather than blaming their peers for bad behavior, C.E.O.'s blame Mr. Obama for "demonizing" business -- by which they apparently mean speaking frankly about the culpability of the guilty parties. Well, C.E.O.'s are people, too -- but soothing their hurt feelings isn't a priority right now, and it has nothing at all to do with promoting economic recovery.

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