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Romney beating Obama in fight for Wall St. cash

Campaign finance reports underscore a chill between President Obama and the financial industry.

Money talks in 2012 race

Oct. 16, 201102:22
/ Source: The New York Times

It is no secret that the relationship between President Obama and Wall Street has chilled. A striking measure of that is the latest campaign finance reports.

Mitt Romney has raised far more money than Mr. Obama this year from the firms that have been among Wall Street’s top sources of donations for the two candidates.

That gap underscores the growing alienation from Mr. Obama among many rank-and-file financial professionals and Mr. Romney’s aggressive and successful efforts to woo them.

The imbalance exists at large investment banks and hedge funds, private equity firms and commercial banks, according to a New York Times analysis of the firms that accounted for the most campaign contributions from the industry to Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama in 2008, based on data from the Federal Election Commission and the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

It could widen as Mr. Obama, seeking to harness anger over growing income inequality, escalates his criticism of the industry, after a year spent trying to smooth ties bruised by efforts to impose tougher regulations.

Money talks in 2012 race

Oct. 16, 201102:22

Since this spring, Mr. Romney has raised $1.5 million from employees of firms like Morgan Stanley; Highbridge Capital Management, a hedge fund; and Blackstone, a private equity firm. Mr. Obama has raised just over $270,000 from firms that were among his leading sources of campaign cash in 2008.

Employees of Goldman Sachs, who in the 2008 campaign gave Mr. Obama over $1 million — more than donors from any other private employer in the country — have given him about $45,000 this year. Mr. Romney has raised about $350,000 from the firm’s employees.

Those figures do not account for all Wall Street giving, nor for the full force of each candidate’s robust network of Wall Street “bundlers,” wealthy individuals who raise money from friends, family members and business associates. And Mr. Obama continues to dominate Mr. Romney — and the rest of the Republican field — in overall fund-raising. He has raised close to $100 million so far this year for his campaign, three times more than Mr. Romney, as well as $65 million for the Democratic National Committee.

The gap in Wall Street giving to Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney underscores disenchantment with Mr. Obama in the industry and the challenges both candidates will face in grappling with public anger about the financial world.

For much of the last year, aides to Mr. Obama have sought to mollify Wall Street executives still bristling over the president’s criticisms of their profits and bonuses, while defending the administration’s program of tougher oversight and regulation as both necessary and beneficial to the industry in the long term.

But with Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who once ran the private equity firm Bain Capital, the most likely Republican nominee, Mr. Obama’s campaign appears to sense an opportunity to harness public resentment over an industry that has largely thrived while the rest of the economy has not.

“There’s no doubt that Governor Romney has raised money off of his belief that Wall Street should be allowed to write its own rules again by repealing Wall Street reform,” said Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesman. “The president put in place protections to ensure that the financial crisis is not repeated and that unacceptable risks aren’t taken with Americans’ life savings.”

For his part, Mr. Romney is now pitching himself as the turnaround expert for an ailing national economy. He has personally wooed major Wall Street donors, successfully recruiting several senior financial executives poised to back Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey had he opted for a White House bid.

But anger at big banks — manifested by the growing Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City and elsewhere — is palpable enough that Mr. Romney must avoid being seen as a friend of an industry that many Americans blame for onerous bank fees and underwater mortgages.

“To the extent anyone is supporting Mitt Romney over President Obama,” said Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, “it is because of the state of the economy and the president’s failures to create jobs.”

Obama releases list
On Friday, Mr. Obama also voluntarily released an updated list of his bundlers for the campaign — a practice none of the Republican candidates has adopted.

Mr. Obama recruited about 100 bundlers during the three months ending Sept. 30, according to an analysis by The Times, some veterans of his 2008 effort, and some new to the ranks.

Among the new recruits are Harvey Weinstein, the movie mogul, who has raised more than half a million dollars for Mr. Obama; Roger C. Altman, a prominent investment banker who backed Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008 but has raised more than $200,000 for Mr. Obama this year; and John E. Frank, a Microsoft executive, who has raised more than $500,000 for the president.

Mr. Obama also recruited Amy Friedkin, a San Francisco philanthropist of Jewish causes and a former president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, who raised more than $200,000 for Mr. Obama.

All the presidential candidates were required to disclose by midnight on Saturday their fund-raising and spending during the three months ending Sept. 30.

Those filings suggest that Mr. Romney is facing a tough fund-raising challenge from Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Mr. Perry raised $17 million during the quarter ending on Sept. 30, roughly 60 percent from a loyal network of Texas donors.

Mr. Romney raised a little over $14 million, with the largest portion coming from California, where he raised $1.6 million, and New York, where he raised $1.5 million. Mr. Romney raised $637,000 in Texas — his fifth-biggest fund-raising state.

And while both candidates enter the fall with about the same amount of cash on hand, Mr. Romney’s campaign more than doubled its rate of spending over the spring months, spending about $12 million during the quarter, including close to $600,000 in travel, $2.8 million on direct mail and $3.6 million on consultants.

Mr. Perry, who entered the race in mid-August, halfway through the quarter, has spent just $2 million. That included about $460,000 on travel, $46,320 on direct mail and printing and $103,000 on consultants. Because he is a sitting governor, some costs, such as his security detail, are borne by taxpayers. And the fiilings do not reflect salary for some of his top aides, David Carney, and his communications director, Ray Sullivan. A press officer for the campaign said the two aides were first paid in October.

Representative Ron Paul, the Texas Republican whose libertarian views have won him a loyal grass-roots following, showed $8.3 million in contributions, half in amounts of less than $200 each. Herman Cain, the former pizza chain executive who has shot up in some recent polls, reported raising $2.8 million and having $1.3 million on hand, while Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota raised almost $4 million in the third quarter and spent nearly $6 million, ending with about $1.3 million in cash.

The other Republican candidates appeared to be lagging far behind. Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, reported raising $704,000 during the three months ending Sept. 30 and had just $229,114 on hand.

Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor, has $327,000 left in his campaign account and more than twice that in debt, his campaign said on Friday.

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, raised $808,000 during the quarter ending Sept. 30 with just $353,417 in cash on hand.

This article, "Romney Beating Obama in a Fight for Wall St. Cash," first appeared in The New York Times.

Richard A. Oppel Jr., Susan Saulny and Derek Willis contributed reporting.