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Election '08: Where the Street is putting its $

With presidential candidates primed to raise $1B this election season, which big investment banks and tech firms are ponying up to support the top contenders?

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By Alexandra Twin, CNNMoney.com senior writer

Where do you think political campaign financing should come from?
  • Private businesses and organizations
  • Individual donors
  • Public funds
  • Anyone willing to contribute

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- One of the most competitive presidential elections in years is also on track to become the most expensive election ever, according to OpenSecrets.org, the web site of the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

And big publicly traded companies such as investment banks Lehman Brothers (LEH, Fortune 500) and Merrill Lynch (MER, Fortune 500) and tech leaders Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) and Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) are among the largest contributors to the top candidates.

In 2007, the major presidential candidates raised $582.5 million and spent $481.2 million.

Candidates raised a record $880.5 million for the 2004 election and spent $719.7 million, also a record. The CRP estimates the candidates will end up raising $1 billion this time.

The CRP broke down recently released Federal Election Commission year-end and fourth-quarter campaign finance contributions and found that lawyers and law firms contributed more than any other industry.

But Lehman Brothers and Microsoft were the biggest overall donors in the fourth quarter, while Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) and Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) were the biggest corporate donors for the year.

Here are the full details for the top two candidates from each party. The CRP totals include money from PACs, contributors and their family members.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D.-N.Y.

Clinton raised $26.6 million in the fourth quarter and nearly $117.7 million through year-end 2007.

Top contributors so far: DLA Piper ($470,150); Goldman Sachs ($407,561); Morgan Stanley ($362,700); Citigroup ($350,895); and Lehman Brothers ($237,270).

Sen. Barack Obama, D.-Ill.

Obama raised $22.8 million in the fourth quarter and nearly $102.2 million by the end of 2007.

Top contributors so far: Goldman Sachs ($421,763); UBS ($296,670); Lehman Brothers ($250,630); National Amusements ($245,843); and JP Morgan Chase ($240,788).

Former Gov. Mitt Romney, R.-Mass.

Romney raised $26.9 million in the fourth quarter and nearly $88.5 million through year-end 2007. The CRP notes that $35.4 million of his funding has come from his own pocket.

Top contributors so far: Goldman Sachs ($223,925); Merrill Lynch ($163,020); Citigroup ($162,950); Morgan Stanley ($152,050); and Lehman Brothers ($137,450).

Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz.

McCain raised $9.7 million in the fourth quarter and $41.1 million as of the end of 2007.

Top contributors so far: Merrill Lynch ($155,950); Citigroup ($153,362); Blank Rome ($143,501); Greenberg Traurig ($130,587); and Goldman Sachs ($85,252).  To top of page

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