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Many of the Democratic party's most generous benefactors once worked in New York on Wall Street. But not this year. As Democrats face a Republican surge, they're doing it without the campaign cash that investment banks and hedge fund investors normally steer their way.
NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY: When Bill Clinton was president, he could talk the talk with the kings of finance, as he did at a Stamford, Connecticut fundraiser in 1996.
President BILL CLINTON: I thank you for this money. We will invest it wisely.
OVERBY: And Wall Street went for President Obama in a big way. His campaign pulled in $15 million from the securities and investment sector. One firm, Goldman Sachs, accounted for almost a million of that, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
But the cash isn't flowing anymore. Wall Street giving overall is down sharply. And at President Obama's town hall meeting last week, he was challenged by hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci.
Mr. ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI (Hedge Fund Manager): Listen, I represent the Wall Street community. We have felt like a pinata. Maybe you don't feel like you're whacking us with a stick. But we certainly feel like we've been whacked with a stick.
OVERBY: The president suggested that Scaramucci was worried about the wrong pinata.
President BARACK OBAMA: This sense of somehow me beating up on Wall Street, I think most folks on Main Street feel like they got beat up on.
OVERBY: That's certainly true. Main Street can't forget that Wall Street got a Washington bailout. But the way it looks from inside the financial sector, President Obama and the Democrats cracked down on bonuses. They pushed the financial reform law thru Congress. They even created the Consumer Financial Protection Board.
At Rutgers University, political scientist Ross Baker says Wall Street donors feel a social contract has been broken.
Professor ROSS BAKER (Political Science, Rutgers University): They were willing to tolerate the anti-Wall Street rhetoric. They were willing to tolerate some regulatory reform. But I think they feel that the Democrats' bloodlust for Wall Street just got totally out of hand, and they're just not willing to reward that kind of behavior.
OVERBY: So, Democrats on Wall Street have been sitting on their wallets. One example from the Center for Responsive Politics, donors at hedge funds are on track to cut their contributions to Democrats by half compared to two years ago. Donors in private equity and venture capital are only slightly less tight-fisted this year.
Incredibly, even with these drops in revenue, things could be worse for the Democrats. So far at least, Wall Street's Democratic donors generally are not switching sides and writing big checks to the GOP. The Street has plenty of Republican donors to do that. And it gives Democratic strategists one little bright spot.
Baker, the political scientist, says it lets Democrats get more aggressive in accusing Republicans of being in Wall Street's pocket.
Prof. BAKER: Which I think is very useful, particularly for a party that's desperately looking for weapons to both defend themselves and to fight back with.
OVERBY: So for example, this ad by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee targeting Republican Senate hopeful Mark Kirk in Illinois.
(Soundbite of a political ad)
Unidentified Man #1: Big Wall Street firms have made an investment in Mark Kirk.
OVERBY: And this one, Washington Senator Patty Murray taking aim at her GOP challenger.
(Soundbite of a political ad)
Unidentified Woman: Dino Rossi. The best friend Wall Street...
Unidentified Man #2: ...and big banks can buy.
OVERBY: There will be another five weeks of Wall Street bashing before election day. Then after that, the presidential campaigns are going to come calling on Wall Street. And those alienated Democratic donors will have to decide what to do.
Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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