Wall St. reduces giving to Obama

Perhaps the cutting of executive pay by the Obama administration is souring relations with Wall St. even though it may be popular with the public. Still as the article shows the Democrats have been given a lot more by Wall St firms than the Republicans. It may help that the Democrats are in power!

October 20, 2009
Wall St. Giants Giving Little to Obama Party Fund-Raiser
The Wall Street giants that received a financial lifeline fromWashington may have no compunction about paying big bonuses to theirdealmakers and traders. But their willingness to deliver “thank you” giftsto President Obama and the Democrats is another question altogether.Mr. Obama will fly to New York on Tuesday for a lavish Democratic Partyfund-raising dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for about 200 big donors.Each donor is paying the legal maximum of $30,400 and is allowed to take adate. Four of the seven “co-chairs” listed on the invitation work infinance, and Democratic Party organizers say they expect that about a thirdof the attendees will come from the industry.But from the financial giants like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase andCitigroup that received federal bailout money — and whose bankers raisedmillions of dollars for Mr. Obama’s election — only a half-dozen or fewerare expected to attend (estimated total contribution: $91,200).Part of the reason, several Democratic fund-raisers and executives said, isa fear of getting caught in the public rage over the perception that WallStreet titans profiting from their government bailout may use their winningsto give back to Washington in return. And the timing of the event, as theindustry lobbies against proposals for tighter regulations to address theunderlying causes of last year’s meltdown on Wall Street, has only added tothe worry over public appearances.“There are sensitivities there,” said Scott Talbot, a lobbyist for theindustry’s Financial Services Roundtable. Political contributions “can makea donor a target,” Mr. Talbot said. Many involved, though, say the lowattendance from those Wall Street giants also reflected a broaderdisenchantment with Mr. Obama over the angry language emanating from theWhite House over the million-dollar bonuses and anti-regulatory lobbying.“There is some failure in the finance industry to appreciate the level ofpublic antagonism toward whatever Wall Street symbolizes,” said Orin Kramer,a partner in an investment firm who is a Democratic fund-raiser and one ofthe event’s chairmen. “But in order to save the capitalist system, theadministration has to be responsive to the public mood, and that is a nuancewhich can get lost on Wall Street.”Dr. Daniel E. Fass, another chairman of the event who lives surrounded byfinanciers in Greenwich, Conn., said: “The investment community feels veryput-upon. They feel there is no reason why they shouldn’t earn $1 million to$200 million a year, and they don’t want to be held responsible for theglobal financial meltdown.” Dr. Fass added, “How much that will be reflectedin their support for the president remains to be seen.”Mr. Obama remains a potent fund-raising draw. Plunging into the 2010 midtermcampaigns last week, he raised more than $3 million in one night in SanFrancisco, speaking at a similar $30,400-a-couple dinner and a larger rallywith tickets at $1,000 and under.In addition to the big-ticket dinner on Tuesday, Mr. Obama will also addressa more small-d democratic event at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom, whereroughly 2,500 donors paying $1,000 or less will also make cellphone calls topromote his health care overhaul. Over the next five days he will appear atfund-raisers for Bill Owens, a candidate for a House seat in New York; Gov.Jon Corzine of New Jersey (himself a former Goldman Sachs banker); Gov.Deval Patrick of Massachusetts; and Senator Christopher J. Dodd ofConnecticut.Democratic fund-raisers say the economic slump has dampened fund-raisingacross every industry. Wall Street has lost Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch andLehman Brothers to consolidation in last year’s credit crunch. Some formerObama fund-raisers on Wall Street have ascended to jobs in theadministration, like Michael Froman, a former top Citigroup executive who isnow an adviser on economics and national security.Current Democratic fund-raisers say their 2008 take from Wall Street mayalso have benefited from the personal connections of the party’s chieffund-raiser that year, Philip D. Murphy, a former top executive at GoldmanSachs. (He is now ambassador to Germany). And as in recent years, Democratsare raising far more from Wall Street executives than Republicans, accordingto campaign finance data sorted by the Center for Responsive Politics.The Democrats, including House and Senate party committees and the partyitself, raised about $5.4 million in the first eight months of the year,while the Republicans took in just $2.7 million.So far in the current election cycle, though, Wall Street accounts for lessthan half as much of the Democratic Party’s fund-raising as it did in 2008:3 percent, or about $1.5 million out of a total $53.6 million in theeight-month period, compared with about 6 percent, or $15.3 million out of$260.1 million during the last election. (Republicans relied more heavily ontheir party to support their presidential candidate in 2008, and the party’sWall Street fund-raising has fallen even further.)Fund-raisers say smaller but lucrative businesses like hedge funds andprivate equity firms now account for more of Wall Street’s politicalcontributions than the big banks that received bailout money, with thepossible exception of the famously generous executives of Goldman Sachs.Employees associated with the financial firms that received bailout moneyfrom the federal government contributed almost $70,000 to the DemocraticParty in the first half of this year. Most of that, $60,800, came from onecouple who each contributed the legal limit. At the time of the donation,the husband, John M. Noel, had recently retired as head of a unit of theinsurance giant AIG called AIG Travel Guard.Mr. Obama, though, still has the loyalty of other powerful friends on WallStreet. Among the other chairmen of the Tuesday dinner in New York is RobertWolf, head of the American investment banking division of the Swiss giantUBS Group. Mr. Wolf raised more than $500,000 for Mr. Obama’s campaign andsits on a White House panel of outside economic advisers.Mr. Wolf does not have to worry about the same appearance problems as WallStreet rivals, however. His firm was bailed out by the government ofSwitzerland, not the United States.


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