Four JPMorgan Chase & Co. executives, including the banker who battled the Obama administration over the restructuring of Chrysler LLC, are co-hosting a New York fundraiser for Mitt Romney next month.
“He dominates the Republican field when it comes to being able to win a general election,” James B. “Jimmy” Lee Jr., a JPMorgan vice chairman, said in an e-mail inviting donors to contribute $2,500 to back Romney, obtained by Bloomberg News. Lee led negotiations for Chrysler’s lenders when President Barack Obama’s auto task force was preparing to put the company into bankruptcy in 2009. He later praised the administration for its response to the auto industry, including the public offering of General Motors Co.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and co-founder of private-equity fund Bain Capital LLC, has made his opposition to the government bailout of Chrysler and GM a part of his criticism of Obama’s intervention into an economy with an unemployment rate stalled at 9 percent.
“My view with regards to the bailout was that, whether it was by President Bush or by President Obama, it was the wrong way to go,” he said at a Nov. 9 debate in Rochester, Michigan.
Lee is co-hosting the Dec. 14 fundraiser with three other Republican donors who work at JPMorgan: Frank Bisignano, the bank’s chief administrative officer and head of home lending; Mary Callahan Erdoes, the chief executive officer of asset management; and former Florida Senator Mel Martinez, who served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George W. Bush and now runs the bank’s charitable foundation.
JPMorgan employees contributed $4.6 million to candidates and the political parties in the 2008 elections, behind only Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. among financial companies. They gave 61 percent of their money to Democrats. In the 2010 midterm elections, they gave 56 percent of their $2 million in donations to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.
The Romney fundraiser will be held at the Waldorf Astoria, owned by Blackstone Group LP, the world’s largest private-equity fund, on the same day Blackstone’s chairman and co-founder, Stephen Schwarzman, plans to host an evening event for Romney at his Park Avenue home. The Waldorf is on Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan, just blocks from JPMorgan’s headquarters.
“I have known Mitt almost my entire career on the Street and made one of his first loans when he came to Bain Capital,” Lee said in his e-mail to prospective donors. “I am committed to doing all that I can to help his campaign because I also believe he is the strongest challenger to President Obama.”
Romney, who has called for repealing the new financial regulations Obama signed into law, has raised more than twice as much money from employees in the securities and investment industry than the president, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Through Sept. 30, Romney brought in $3.6 million and Obama $1.6 million. Romney has received donations from many on Wall Street who backed Obama four years ago, when the Democrat raised $16 million from securities and investment industry employees. Romney raised $5 million before dropping out of the 2008 presidential race in February.
Former Party Chairman
Lee, Bisignano and Erdoes all supported Republican Senator John McCain’s White House bid in 2008. Martinez was chairman of the Republican Party in the 2008 election cycle while serving in the U.S. Senate.
Martinez, who is a chairman of Romney’s national advisory committee, declined to say how many people will attend the fundraiser.
He said he agreed that Romney is the most electable of the Republican candidates. “He is the most prepared to be president in the Republican field and has the best handle on moving the economy forward,” said Martinez.
The other executives declined to comment.
Bisignano also donated $4,600 to then-Senator Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, according to financial-disclosure reports.
In August of this year, Lee contributed $2,500 to the Republican presidential campaign of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman.
Lee, Bisignano and Erdoes worked with William Daley when he led corporate responsibility for the bank before he left to become Obama’s chief of staff at the beginning of the year.
Lee has worked on deals for News Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch and Brian Roberts, the chairman, president and CEO of Comcast Corp. At the beginning of the Obama administration, he handled negotiations with Steven Rattner, the head of Obama’s auto task force, over assistance to the industry.
Lee demanded 100 cents on the dollar for the debt, and argued that the government should repay all $6.9 billion owed to Chrysler lenders “and not a penny less,” according to a book written by Rattner.
In the heat of negotiations, Lee also told Rattner he’d have his boss, CEO Jamie Dimon, call the president to press the matter, according to Rattner’s account. Bondholders ended up receiving 29 cents on the dollar.
Last year, Lee was part of a JPMorgan team that ran General Motors’ $23 billion initial public offering, the biggest on record. He later said the government’s intervention at GM and Chrysler saved the auto industry.
“This was much bigger than a stock offering,” he said on Sept. 27 at a Bloomberg Dealmakers Summit in New York. “It gave people a reason to believe in the country and what it can do.”
Throughout the campaign, Romney has said that instead of a government intervention, the auto companies should have immediately entered private-sector bankruptcies. His Republican rivals share that view, saying in the November debate that they wouldn’t have extended government loans to save the two automakers.
The Obama campaign and Democratic surrogates have signaled they intend to use Romney’s position on the bailout against him if he wins his party’s nomination.
Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, said in Nov. 9 interview that Romney’s position was “a knife in the back” to the state where he was born and grew up.
“If it had gone his way, these companies would have been liquidated,” said Granholm.
The Romney campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.