Wall Street's Big Money Is Betting On Biden And Democrats In 2020 | KGOU
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Wall Street's Big Money Is Betting On Biden And Democrats In 2020

Aug 17, 2020
Originally published on August 17, 2020 3:42 pm

President Trump loves talking about the booming stock market. It's not so clear Wall Street loves him back.

For the first time in a decade, deep-pocketed donors from the halls of finance are giving more money to Democrats than Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group that tracks money in politics.

"This cycle is the first cycle we've seen in a while where the Democrats in the House and [former Vice President Joe] Biden and even to some extent the Democrats in the Senate are out-raising Republicans," says Sarah Bryner, research director at the Center for Responsive Politics.

Of nearly $800 million donated to politicians by securities firms, banks, real estate companies and their employees by June 30, slightly more than half went to Democrats.

That hardly ever happens. While Wall Street went big for Barack Obama in 2008, it switched back to the GOP following the passage of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul bill and has been reliably Republican ever since.

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That's important, because the finance sector is by far the biggest contributor to political campaigns in the country.

President Trump still has friends in finance, such as private equity's billionaire titan Stephen A. Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone Group, and discount online brokerage pioneer Charles Schwab. But Republican megadonor Robert Mercer of Renaissance Technologies is giving a lot less to the party this year.

Meanwhile, wallets are opening faster for Democrats this election season than they did in 2016, says Charles Myers, chairman of Signum Global Advisers, who helped raise money for Hillary Clinton four years ago.

"For people to write a $100,000 check, a $250,000 check, that would have been really extraordinary four years ago," Myers says. "Today we're seeing a lot of that."

The stock market may be hitting records, but a lot of people who work in finance have soured on Trump's management style, Myers says.

"People are just exhausted. It's hard to make medium- to long-term capital allocation decisions because you never know what his White House is going to do," he adds.

Andrew Redleaf, founder of the hedge fund company Whitebox Advisors, has been a Republican donor in the past. He gave to the campaign of 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He calls himself a libertarian conservative who favors free trade and immigration.

This year, he's given money to the Lincoln Project, a group of conservative never-Trumpers who are running scathing ads against the president in swing states.

"I'd like there to be a right-of-center, limited-government party ... which is not the Trumpist Republican Party," Redleaf says.

Redleaf is wary of Democrats and has no particular affection for Biden.

But the former vice president is a known commodity on Wall Street and is widely seen as a more centrist, acceptable alternative to more liberal Democrats who ran for president, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Biden has also been a top recipient of financial industry money for decades as a senator from Delaware, home to financial and credit card companies.

"He's not somebody that the industry is particularly afraid of," Bryner says. "So I think that we would see them kind of hopeful that he would be a more moderating influence, whereas Trump can be quite unpredictable."

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAY ARROW SONG, "ALL I WANT IS YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.