Election '08: Wall Street's big donors

The presidential candidates have already raised $800 million, nearing a fundraising record. Which big companies are helping to foot the bill?

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By Alexandra Twin, CNNMoney.com senior writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- With the 2008 race for the White House whittled down to a three-person contest, Wall Street is hedging its bets in what is almost certain to be the most expensive presidential race in history.

JP Morgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500), Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) and Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) were among the top contributors, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, which broke down recently released Federal Election Commission campaign contributions.

As of the end of the first quarter of 2008, the top three candidates - Republican John McCain and Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama - along with all past contenders, have raised more than $800 million combined.

With more than seven months to go until the election, the CRP says that the candidates could end up raising a total of $1 billion, according to some estimates. That would mark an all-time record.

Compare 2008 to the 2004 election, when Republican George Bush, Democrat John Kerry and all the other candidates raised a combined $880.5 million. In 2004, the George Bush-Al Gore contest brought in $528.9 million. The Bill Clinton-Bob Dole contest in 1996 racked up a combined $425.7 million.

Where the money comes from. The CRP found that securities and investment firms, lawyers and law firms, other businesses, and retired people as a group were the biggest industry contributors to each of the candidates.

The securities and investment industry alone has so far contributed more than $35 million to the candidates, with over 55% of the contributions going toward Democrats, a change from the last election, when Wall Street favored Republicans. Barack Obama's campaign has received $7.5 million so far and Hillary Clinton's camp has received nearly $7 million, compared with $3.7 million for John McCain's campaign.

Between 1996 and 2004, Wall Street donors backed GOP candidates, in keeping with the traditional idea that the security and investment industry prefers Big Business-friendly Republicans.

But a switch took place during the 2006 congressional elections, in which Democrats took control of both houses of Congress. In that year, Wall Street sent a larger portion of its donations to the DNC, suggesting the investment community knows it needs to be in good standing with whichever party is making laws. That trend has continued with the 2008 presidential election.

Among other industries, lawyers and law firms gave more than $58 million this election cycle, with just over 77% of that money going to the Democrats. The entertainment industry has brought in over $9 million, with nearly 82% of that going to the Democrats.

The oil and gas industry has given $3 million so far, with 69% of that going to Republicans. Big tobacco has supported Republicans more as well, with nearly 60% of the more than 321,000 raised going toward McCain's party. Individuals who identify themselves as "retired" have contributed over $47 million, with 53% of that going toward Republicans. To top of page

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