Wall Street bets big on Romney

@CNNMoney February 1, 2012: 3:42 PM ET
Wall Street backs Romney.

Mitt Romney led all presidential rivals in contributions from financial services industry firms and workers in 2011, followed by President Obama, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) -- Wall Street has thrown its weight behind alum Mitt Romney for president, according to new campaign data for 2011.

But the industry hasn't totally abandoned President Obama, who in 2008 raised more money from the financial industry than any other candidate in history, according to two watchdog groups.

No other candidate came close to the $12 million Romney's campaign raised directly in 2011 from individuals who work at financial firms and banks, which also includes cash from insurance and real estate companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

By comparison, Obama's campaign raised $5 million from people who worked on Wall Street last year, the Center for Responsive Politics reported.

"Romney has raised, far and away, more money,"said Michael Beckel, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. "But the president is still collecting a big chunk of change from finance sector interests."

In addition to Romney's campaign, Wall Street executives opened their wallets to Restore Our Future, a super political action committee that supports Romney indirectly.

It raised about $18 million from July through December 2011, federal records show, with contributions coming from people throughout the industry -- from workers at Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney founded, to Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500), federal records show.

Romney's big victory in Tuesday's Florida Republican primary was helped by the so-called super PAC. That group paid the tab for negative political advertisements against his main opponent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

High-profile donors to the pro-Romney super PAC include hedge fund managers who each contributed a million dollars: John Paulson of Paulson & Co., Robert Mercer of Renaissance Technologies Corp., Julian Robertson of Tiger Management and Paul Singer of Elliott Management.

That Romney should be popular on Wall Street is no surprise, considering his long career in finance, which includedcreating Bain Capital in 1984. The financial sector contributed more than one in five dollars of the $56 million raised by Romney in 2011, according to the center.

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Romney's list of top contributors reads like a who's who of Wall Street: Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse Group (CS), Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500), Barclays, (BCS) Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) are all represented on the list. Romney got $496,430 from those associated with Goldman, $317,400 from those who work at JPMorgan and $277,850 from those with links to Morgan Stanley.

When asked about the Wall Street donors, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said: "To the extent anyone is supporting Mitt Romney over President Obama, it is because the state of the economy and the president's failure to create jobs."

Obama has also racked up contributions from big banks, despite his anti-Wall Street rhetoric and his role in creating the largest set of regulatory reforms of the financial sector since the 1930s. Yet, Obama's take from financial firms accounted for just 4% of his overall $125 million war chest through Dec. 31.

The giving from big Wall Street firms was smaller to Obama than to Romney, such as $64,224 from individuals who work at Goldman Sachs, the only financial firm to make a list of top 20 contributors to Obama.

Thanks to his 2008 campaign, the president just barely holds the record for raising the most from the financial sector than any other federal candidate in the past 20 years, according to research by the Sunlight Foundation.

Obama went on to campaign against Wall Street, dubbing its denizens "fat cats" early in his presidency, while trying to get reforms passed. Last year, the president proposed the so-called Buffett rule, a guideline to ensure that millionaires pay a higher percentage of their income in federal taxes than those who make less.

Requests for comment to the Obama campaign were not returned.

Other candidates Wall Street supported in 2011 included former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, with $460,173 raised, Rep. Ron Paul, with $317,524, and former Sen. Rick Santorum with $232,700.

Government watchdog groups said they're concerned about all the money flowing in from Wall Street.

Mary Boyle, a spokeswoman for Common Cause, a nonpartisan political advocacy group, says she expects this general election to be the most expensive race ever, fueled in large part with Wall Street giving.

"They're giving a lot of money, and when industries and individuals are giving a lot of money to a candidate, it's because they want something in return," she said.

-- CNN's Robert Yoon contributed to this report. To top of page

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