Obama Campaign Chief Messina Seeks to Assure Wall Street Donors

Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s campaign manager, assured a group of Democratic donors from the financial services industry that Obama won’t demonize Wall Street as he stresses populist appeals in his re-election campaign, according to two people at the meeting.

At the members-only Core Club in Manhattan, Messina provided a campaign briefing last night for some of the president’s top donors, including Ralph Schlosstein, chief executive officer at Evercore Partners Inc., and his wife, Jane Hartley, co-founder of the economic and political advisory firm Observatory Group LLC; Eric Mindich, founder of Eton Park Capital Management LP; and Ron Blaylock, co-founder of GenNx360 Capital Partners.

Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, has been criticized by party rivals for his background as founder of Boston-based private equity firm Bain Capital LLC. While Obama hasn’t directly attacked Romney, he has signaled that his campaign will be based on a populist message of “fairness” to middle-income Americans and seeking higher taxes on the wealthy.

In response to a question, Messina told the group of Wall Street donors that the president plans to run against Romney, not the industry that made the former governor of Massachusetts millions, according to one of the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

Central Premise

The Obama campaign plans to focus on Romney’s record in the private and public sectors.

“Mitt Romney has made the central premise of his candidacy his time as a so-called job creator,” said Ben LaBolt, press secretary for Obama for America. “But the fact is that he was a corporate buyout specialist who profited off of bankrupting companies and outsourcing jobs, and a governor whose state ranked 47th out of 50th in job creation during his tenure.”

Obama raised almost $16 million from employees in the securities and investment industry and their families for the 2008 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

After Obama championed new regulations designed to curb abuses blamed for the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Wall Street put its money elsewhere.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., whose employees gave $23,494 to Obama in the last three months, was the only financial institution among Obama’s top 10 list of donors for the fourth quarter.

Messina also discussed the president’s reversal in encouraging donors to contribute to independent political action committees backing Obama, the person said. Messina’s remarks to the group echoed a public e-mail he sent to supporters saying, “We can’t allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm.”

Campaign officials said the decision was made after seeing the Republicans’ so-called super-PACs emerge as the dominant spending force in the party’s early presidential contests. In last week’s federal financial filings, one set of the groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, reported raising $51 million last year.

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