Wall Street: The Candidate’s Friend

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President Obama may talk a good populist game and even kick some corporate butt when he goes on the attack against Wall Street “fat cats.” Yet he still enjoys the company of bankers — see our “On Democracy” essay on the subject — and for all their grumbling about his policies, the investment community is coming up with significant cash for his re-election; the kind of change they believe in.

Justin Elliott at Salon.com takes a look at 357 “elite bundlers” — people who in the second and third quarters of 2011 raised money from friends and colleagues and gave it to the Democratic National Committee and Obama campaign in big chunks — $50,000 or more from each bundler. “The second most represented industry after law was the securities and investment industry,” Elliott writes. “The 62 bundlers who work in that industry have raised at least $9.4 million for Obama and the DNC. That ‘at least’ is significant because the Obama campaign specifies only a dollar range in its disclosures, with the top category being “$500,000+.” So the real aggregate figure may be considerably higher. Among these bundlers are employees of big-name firms including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Barclays and Citigroup.”

The data comes from the Center for Responsive Politics and you can see the complete list here. Printed out, it runs to eight pages of very small type. And we should add that so far, the Obama campaign is the only one to have voluntarily released the names of these contributors.

Meanwhile, the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation has a press release headlined, “Political Contributions from Financial Sector Increased 700% since 1990,”which links to this analysis. “Wealthy financial sector donors gave $178.2 million in political contributions in 2010, more than ten times what they gave 20 years ago,” they report (when you adjust for inflation, that’s 700 percent). “More than any other industry, individuals from the finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector, particularly those in securities and investments, are the key drivers of the overall growth of elite donors, or what Sunlight calls the political one percent of the one percent.”

Not surprisingly, the FIRE contributors cover their bets, consistently giving to candidates and committees from both parties on a fairly equal basis “though slightly favoring Republicans in most years.” So no wonder that on the one hand employees of Goldman Sachs can bundle donations for President Obama (and gave more to his 2008 campaign than employees of any other company) and on the other manage part of Mitt Romney’s investment portfolio — according to The Los Angeles Times, “A significant proportion of the Romney family fortune is parked with an elite division of Goldman that is open only to clients with more than $10 million to invest. Another chunk of the fortune is invested in Goldman-run hedge funds, which like all hedge funds are open only to millionaires.”

Is this a great country or what?

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