Romney Lures Obama Wall Street Donors in Race for Cash

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has raised more than twice as much money from Wall Street as Barack Obama -- an edge gained in part by luring away at least 100 donors, mostly investors, who backed the president in 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The former Obama donors are helping the former Massachusetts governor lock up Wall Street dollars as Romney races to financially outpace primary rival Texas Governor Rick Perry in advance of the Sept. 30 third quarter deadline for campaign fundraising.

“It’s going to be very hard for the president to bash the rich and create jobs at the same time,” said Anthony Scaramucci, 47, founder and managing partner of New York-based SkyBridge Capital LLC that manages $8 billion, who has switched support from Obama in 2008 to Romney. “I don’t think the country is about class warfare.”

While Romney works the financial services industry, Perry is picking up support from prominent Republicans who had planned to back Republican Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, had he run.

Perry and Romney are holding competing fundraisers today, as they try to bank closing cash for reports that historically have established the candidate pecking order in the run-up to the early primaries or driven some hopefuls from the race.

Clearing the Field

In 1999, five candidates -- including former Senator Elizabeth Dole, a North Carolina Republican -- abandoned their bids after failing to keep financial pace with former then-Governor George W. Bush of Texas. Bush reported raising $57.7 million through Sept. 30 compared with Dole’s $4.8 million.

Perry’s event in Washington, with members of the host committee each agreeing to raise $10,000, will be held at the Willard InterContinental Hotel, which is situated two blocks from the White House. Supporters who donate $1,000 can attend a general reception. Among the Willard event organizers is Kirk Blalock, a senior aide to Barbour in 1994 when he was chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Dirk Van Dongen, president of the Washington-based National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors.

Blalock and Van Dongen each raised at least $100,000 for Bush in 2004 and at least $500,000 for Republican presidential nominee John McCain in 2008.

Events Today

Later, Perry will attend a reception at the home of Mary Ourisman, a Bush supporter and former U.S. ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

Romney has scheduled a $2,500-a-head breakfast at the Essex House overlooking Central Park in New York City. It’s being organized by a host committee that includes top executives of Goldman Sachs Group, KKR & Co. LP and Blackstone Group LP. For $500, Romney supporters can attend a general reception after the breakfast.

Among the organizers of Romney’s event today is Scaramucci, who gave $4,600 to Obama in 2008.

“You need a turnaround specialist in Washington right now,” Scaramucci said in an interview. “You have to cut and cap the growth of the government, but at the same time you need to figure out a way to put the private and public sectors in balance to stimulate the economy. Governor Romney has done that.”

Scaramucci is one of at least 100 former Obama contributors who have given to Romney’s 2012 campaign, according to a Bloomberg analysis of data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks political giving. They have helped Romney, founder of the Boston-based private equity firm Bain Capital LLC, raise $2.3 million from the securities industry sector, compared with $857,000 for Obama.

Industry Donations Shift

In 2008, Obama received $15 million from employees in the securities and investment industry, more than any other candidate, according to the center. Romney received $5 million. Some donors who gave to Obama during his 2008 race also gave to Romney or other Republicans.

The industry opposed efforts by Obama to impose new regulations and consumer protections on the financial sector, blamed for contributing to the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression. Obama signed the new rules into law last year.

Romney has called for repeal of the new financial law, which, he said in his jobs plan, “sends a flood of new regulations washing over the financial sector and anyone seeking to borrow money to buy a home or build a business.”

Wall Street ‘Gravitating’

Emil Henry Jr., a former Bush administration assistant treasury secretary who is organizing fundraising events for Romney, said, “Wall Street is gravitating towards Mitt Romney and away from President Obama because financial professionals see clearly the severity of our country’s financial problems and view Romney, with a 25-year career as a turnaround specialist, as the most capable to address those problems versus a career politician with zero financial background.”

Glenn Totten, a Democratic consultant, countered, “There’s no doubt that the laissez-faire capitalist mentality that runs rampant on Wall Street is not going to take regulation lying down. The fact that President Obama actually made an attempt to rein in those abuses put him on the wrong side.”

In addition to tapping into Obama’s donors, Romney is competing with Perry in reaching out to former Barbour supporters.

Romney backers said their effort got a boost after Perry was booed by party activists during a Sept. 22 Florida debate in which he defended his support of a Texas law allowing children of illegal immigrants to pay discounted, in-state tuition.

Post-Debate Momentum

“I sent out a ‘save-the-date’ this week for a Romney event and there was a noticeable uptick in my in-box this weekend,” said Bobbie Kilberg, a former Barbour supporter who is hosting an Oct. 25 fundraiser at her Northern Virginia home for Romney.

Blalock said Perry supporters are not worried about the state of the race.

“They expected some bumps along the road for somebody who has not done this before,” he said, adding that there are a number of donors still not committed to any candidate. “It’s a lot of people who were never energized by Mitt Romney’s candidacy in the 2008 presidential campaign and still aren’t now.”

Perry’s Handicap

Perry, who entered the race in August, will file his first fundraising disclosure report on Oct. 15. His ability to raise money on Wall Street is handicapped by a Securities and Exchange Commission rule prohibiting firms handling Texas public pension funds from contributing to his campaign. The Texas Teachers Retirement System, for instance, has management contracts with hundreds of fund advisers, including those at Blackstone Group, Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs.

“In the South, I see traditional party leaders going for Perry,” said Charlie Black, a Republican lobbyist who has worked on Republican presidential campaigns for more than three decades and is neutral so far this year. “Around the rest of the country, the majority that has chosen a candidate has probably chosen Romney.”

Although Sept. 30 is the third quarter fundraising deadline, the detailed reports for all of the candidates won’t be filed until Oct. 15. Through June 30, Romney raised $18.3 million overall, more than any of his opponents for the Republican presidential nomination, Federal Election Commission reports show. Obama took in $46 million, more than the entire Republican field.

“It’s no surprise that the Romney campaign is raising money from Wall Street by saying they want to repeal consumer protections and allow Wall Street to write its own rules,” said Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesman.

“The president has attracted support from Americans across the country, including business leaders, who recognize the president’s leadership in putting us on a path to recovery and laying the foundation for a fairer economy -- and believe we should pass his plan to create jobs and provide middle-class security,” he added.