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Wall Street hands out millions of dollars to political candidates during election season, and for the first time in a decade, Democrats are getting more of it than Republicans. NPR's Jim Zarroli explains why.
JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Hedge fund founder Andrew Redleaf is famous on Wall Street for predicting the 2008 financial meltdown. He made a lot of money in the process. When it comes to picking political candidates, he hasn't been so lucky. He's usually supported Republicans. He gave money to Mitt Romney in 2012.
ANDREW REDLEAF: I can't remember ever contributing to someone who won. I'm 0 for 9 or something like that.
ZARROLI: This year he's giving money to The Lincoln Project, the conservative group that's running ads against Trump in swing states. Redleaf calls himself a libertarian conservative, and he doesn't care for President Trump's anti-immigration and trade policies.
REDLEAF: I'd like there to be a right-of-center, limited government party, which is not the Trumpist (ph) Republican party.
ZARROLI: As President Trump frequently points out, Wall Street has boomed during his administration. Here he was last week at a press conference.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: By the way, our stock market numbers are very close to record, and Nasdaq is actually record over the last 14 days.
ZARROLI: But Trump's affection for Wall Street isn't always being reciprocated. Sarah Bryner of the Center for Responsive Politics says the financial sector has almost always given more money to Republicans - not this year.
SARAH BRYNER: This cycle is the first cycle we've seen in a while where the Democrats in the House and Biden and even, to some extent, the Democrats in the Senate are outraising Republicans.
ZARROLI: Bryner says the finance sector had given nearly $800 million to political campaigns in this election cycle as of June 30. A bit more than half went to Democrats. To be sure, Trump still has fans on Wall Street. His 2017 tax cut and his attempts to weaken bank regulations have won him big-money backers. They include private equity titan Stephen Schwarzman and online brokerage pioneer Charles Schwab. Here is Schwab on the Fox Business Network two years ago.
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CHARLES SCHWAB: Today I think Trump is correct. We are - want to make America great again. We want to be competitive. We want to stop the giveaways.
ZARROLI: Trump is also ahead of former Vice President Biden in total fundraising. But one of Trump's biggest donors, hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, has given out a lot less money this year. And Democrats such as Charles Myers of Signum Global Advisors, who helped raise money for Hillary Clinton in 2016, say people on Wall Street are a lot quicker to open their wallets this year.
CHARLES MYERS: For people to write a hundred thousand dollar check, a $250,000 check - that would have been really extraordinary four years ago. Today we're seeing a lot of that.
ZARROLI: And while Wall Street donors were wary of liberal candidates such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, they're more comfortable with Biden. He's a known commodity. He hails from Delaware, home to a lot of credit card companies. And Sarah Bryner of the Center for Responsive Politics says he's been a top recipient of financial industry money for decades.
BRYNER: He's not somebody that the industry is particularly afraid of, so I think that we would see them kind of hopeful that maybe he might be a more moderating influence, whereas Trump can be quite unpredictable.
ZARROLI: The irony is that Wall Street has fared well under President Trump. For much of his administration, big banks have seen record profits. And even now during a deep recession, stock prices are hitting records again. But for some deep-pocketed donors, that's no longer reason enough to support him.
Jim Zarroli, NPR News.
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