Mitt Romney Beating President Obama Raising Wall Street Cash
New campaign finance data released late Tuesday reveals in stark monetary terms just how little love there is left for Barack Obama on Wall Street.
Wall Street dollars now favor Republican candidates over the president by more than a 5 to 1 margin, with the majority going to Mitt Romney, whose ties to the financial sector date back to his time at private equity powerhouse Bain Capital.
The financial sector, including insurance and real estate industries, has spent at least $33 million to support Republican candidates so far in the 2012 election cycle. That includes campaign donations by individuals and by a new creature on the political influence scene, the Super PAC, which can collect and spend unlimited amounts of cash to try to sway voters. President Obama has raised about $6 million, according to campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics and The Huffington Post.
It was not always this way. In his campaign for the White House, Barack Obama raised more money from Wall Street -- $15.8 million -- than any politician in history. (This is campaign donations only. Super PACS are new to this presidential election cycle.) As late as October 2009, Democrats were hauling in 70 percent of all money donated by banks and their allies.
Two months later, the House passed sweeping financial reforms and Obama infamously referred to bankers as "fat cats," in an interview with "60 Minutes." Democrats share of bank money plummeted to 40 percent in December 2009.
"Money is very responsive to the political dynamics of the moment," said Richard Pildes, a New York University law professor who is also a senior legal advisor to the Obama campaign.
For now, the numbers show that Wall Street is mostly showing love to Romney, who has promised to dismember the Dodd-Frank financial regulation reform.
"I will repeal the Dodd-Frank legislation, which is harming local banks and hurting credit creation when we need it most," Romney told the Las Vegas Journal-Review in a Q&A published on Sunday. Romney has raised more than $12 million from Wall Street in campaign donations. The "Restore Our Future" Super Pac that supports him has raised more than $30 million, mostly from the finance sector.
Towing the anti-regulation line, though, doesn't seem to work for everyone. "I would repeal Dodd-Frank tomorrow morning," Newt Gingrich told the newspaper. Gingrich has raised less than $500,000 from the financial sector.
Obama has said he will fight any effort to repeal or weaken the law. He recently defied Republicans by using a recess appointment to install Richard Cordray as head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a signature creation of Dodd-Frank.
Donation dynamics do not always hinge on a single issue. David Ader is self-described moderate Democrat and head of government bond strategy at CRT Capital Group. He gave to the Obama campaign before the 2008 election, but is now leaning toward Romney.
Ader said he thinks Dodd-Frank "probably went too far," but said his chief concerns are fiscal responsibility and economic growth. He said he is disappointed that Obama has not done more to address the looming Social Security and health care crises as the American population ages.
Ader said he was particularly distressed that Obama ignored the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission, which charted a path from under the debt burden.
"It did immense damage to stature of the U.S. and perhaps our credit rating," Ader said. "It made me say, 'Who else is out there?'"
Ader has not yet donated to the Romney campaign -- "I'm holding back my penny," he said -- because he isn't sure what Romney stands for yet. As a social liberal, he has been turned off by the tenor of the Republican debates, he said.
Dodd-Frank hasn't turned off all of Wall Street. Keith Cockrell, a consumer banking executive at Bank of America who with his wife donated $2,750 to the Obama campaign in the 2008 election, said he does not support certain aspects of Dodd-Frank, including a provision that forced banks to cut the fees they collect from merchants whenever a customer swipes a debit card.
But that isn't enough to persuade him to back a Republican.
"Given that we have an economy that is struggling to show signs of life and a degree of uncertainty about the future, it is understandable in my perspective if [Obama] loses some support," Cockrell said. "But my personal view is that pales in comparison to the alternatives we are facing."
It is still relatively early in the campaign, and it is likely that Obama will start to close the Wall Street fundraising gap once the Republicans choose a nominee. Even if the bankers stay away, Obama isn't exactly struggling to convince people to give him money.
Romney has pulled in $80 million, including Super PAC donations to groups supporting him, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Obama's war chest is bulging with more than $120 million.
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