President Barack Obama continues to enjoy support from a core group of financial executives, particularly in the hedge fund business, but his support at major Wall Street firms, banks and among private equity managers has eroded so much that it is possible that not a single major executive from these businesses will openly support him for re-election in 2012, an analysis by the FOX Business Network shows.
The analysis — conducted through interviews with numerous Wall Street executives including several chief executives at major banks, as well as an examination of recent campaign contribution filings — is in stark contrast to the nearly universal support the president enjoyed among both senior banking executives during his successful 2008 president campaign over Republican John McCain.
Obama’s lack of support among bank executives may be most acute in the executive suite. In 2008, many chief executives at the big firms were early supporters of the president. The financial industry was ranked fourth in total contributions to the president with powerhouse Goldman Sachs (GS) ranked as the president’s second largest supporter, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Goldman’s chief executive officer Lloyd Blankfein and firm President Gary Cohn are both registered Democrats with Cohn being one of Obama’s earliest 2008 supporters and Blankfein, who initially supported Hillary Cinton’s unsuccessful presidential bid, joining the Obama bandwagon.
But as the 2012 election approaches, Blankfein has told people inside Goldman he will likely support Republican Mitt Romney for president if Romney wins the Republican nomination, while records show that Goldman is now the leading contributor to Romney’s campaign for the 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
A Goldman spokesman had no comment.
And he isn’t alone. Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase (JPM) was also a 2008 Obama supporter, as were people like then Morgan Stanley (MS) Chief Executive John Mack and Larry Fink, the chief executive of money management powerhouse BlackRock (BLK).
All except Fink are now moving into the Romney camp.
In addition to banking executives, Romney has wide support in the private equity business, with a private equity firm ranking among his top five contributors so far. Officials in the private equity business say their support for Romney stems from the former Massachusetts governor’s background as a private equity investor (he founded Bain Capital) and a likely assault on private equity by the administration as the 2012 election approaches.
The FOX Business Network has learned that Bill Daley, the president’s chief of staff, has recently alerted senior people on Wall Street that the administration is likely to begin a concerted attack on the private equity business because it sees Romney as the most likely Republican nominee. The two areas the administration will attack is the favorable tax treatment private equity firms receive on their investments (also known as “carried interest”) as well as the corporate downsizing that often occurs after private equity firms purchase other companies.
The White House had no comment on the matter.
“The bottom line is that if Wall Street has its way it will not support Obama this time around,” said one chief executive of a major Wall Street bank. “Romney is clearly the favorite.”
That’s the word coming out of JPMorgan, which recently held a high profile fundraiser for Romney attended by Dimon himself, a signal of where the JPMorgan chief wants the firm’s money to be headed this time around, according to people close to the big bank.
Dimon, also a Democrat, is said to be prohibited from openly supporting any presidential candidate because he is a board member of the New York Federal Reserve bank, a primary regulator of the banking system.
But he was an important behind-the-scenes supporter of Obama in 2008, and JPMorgan ranked as Obama’s sixth largest campaign contributor for the president’s successful presidential run. Dimon, who is regarded as among the nation’s most able bank executives for his role in leading JPMorgan during the financial collapse, was a frequent adviser to the president on financial matters during the president’s first year in office. His former top lobbyist was Daley and many on Wall Street believed Dimon would eventually be named Treasury Secretary.
But the Obama-Dimon relationship has been strained more recently; the two have clashed largely over financial reform legislation and its impact on banking profits. Dimon as Treasury Secretary is no longer a topic either in Washington or Wall Street. In fact, people close to Dimon say he is now likely to support Romney for president as will many on his management team.
A spokesman for JP Morgan had no comment.
Mack, currently the chairman of Morgan Stanley who is set to retire from the firm at the end of the year, currently says he’s supporting the long-shot nomination of former ambassador to China John Huntsman, but is likely to eventually support Romney as well, as is his replacement, Morgan CEO James Gorman, people close to the firm say.
Morgan Stanley is the third largest contributor to Romney in the 2012 cycle so far; the firm doesn’t rank among the top five contributors so far to the president.
A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman wouldn’t comment on whether Mack will switch to Romney, and said Gorman hasn’t made his intentions publicly known.
Meanwhile, Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, is still said to remain an Obama supporter, albeit a quieter one from his days as an early and vocal supporter of the president’s 2008 campaign. People close to Fink say the BlackRock chief has signaled that he would accept the job as Treasury Secretary if Obama wins a second term. Fink didn’t return calls for comment.
Of course, Wall Street will be less likely to support what it perceives as a weak Republican challenger or some of the more conservative potential nominees who take their cues from the Tea Party and its more populist, anti-bank political message. Like Fink, president Obama supporters in the financial business include many prominent hedge fund executives, and given the public disdain for Wall Street following the 2008 financial collapse, seeking Wall Street money may not be a smart political strategy. Moreover, the president may not need the same level of Wall Street support he enjoyed in 2008; in just the third quarter of 2011 alone, Obama raised nearly $41 million compared to Romney’s nearly $14 million.
But Wall Street’s early support for the president in 2008 was vital in that it provided seed money to finance large events and ads that eventually led to raising money from other sources, people who worked in the Obama campaign said.
And Wall Street is likely holding back most of its political contributions until executives see a clearer picture emerge from the Republican field. While Romney is considered to have the best chance of beating Obama in a national election, polls show his support remaining tepid among rank-and-file Republican voters. In fact some polls show former House leader Newt Gingrich currently as the front runner among Republicans.
That said, Romney is considered the front runner among the Wall Street executives, particularly in a head-to-head match up with the president for fund raising dollars. In fact, not a single Wall Street firm can be found among the president’s top money givers, an analysis by the
Center for Responsive Politics shows.
The reasons for the Wall Street boycott of the Obama campaign go beyond the president’s support of financial reform legislation in the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse that many executives also say adds needless new regulations leading to lower profits and contributing to the current round of Wall Street layoffs, according to interviews with senior Wall Street executives.
Rather they point to the president’s increasing use of class-warfare rhetoric as well as his recent support for the Occupy Wall Street protests, which continue to demonize Wall Street bankers with sometimes violent demonstrations.
Candidate Comparison: Top Contributors – 2012 Cycle
(Source: Center for Responsive Politics)
These tables list the top donors to these candidates in the 2012 election cycle. The organizations themselves did not donate , rather the money came from the organization’s PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.
Because of contribution limits, organizations that bundle together many individual contributions are often among the top donors to presidential candidates. These contributions can come from the organization’s members or employees (and their families). The organization may support one candidate, or hedge its bets by supporting multiple candidates. Groups with national networks of donors — like EMILY’s List and Club for Growth — make for particularly big bundlers.
Microsoft Corp $171,573
Comcast Corp $113,800
Harvard University $99,975
Google Inc $95,066
University of California $85,941
Goldman Sachs $367,200
Credit Suisse Group $203,750
Morgan Stanley $194,300
HIG Capital $186,500