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Why “Fat Cat Bankers” Are Swinging Their Support and Money to Republicans


It's being called an "unheard of shift in party preference." A swing of support - and financial backing - that dwarfs anything seen in nearly a quarter of a century. According to the latest campaign finance analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics OpenSecrets.org, a majority of the nation's top corporate donors have turned from blue to red, so to speak, and are now contributing more to Republicans than Democrats. That's the exact opposite of what they did in 2008, and as the Bloomberg story points out, nowhere is the trend more pronounced than on Wall Street.

While Mitt Romney's campaign has won the fundraising derby on a national level for the past 3 months, the change of sentiment among big business begs closer scrutiny. As my co-host Jeff Macke and I discuss in the attached video, if you had to boil the issue down, one overriding theme or reason jumps to the fore, uncertainty.

Whether it's uncertainty over regulation, uncertainty over taxes and the budget, or uncertainty over healthcare, it's not only eroding corporate confidence but the cash outlays that normally go with it.

Let's use Goldman Sachs (GS) as an example. Data shows in 2008, Goldman employees topped all other corporate donors by contributing $6.1 million dollars, three-quarters of which went to Democrats. Today, 70% of their giving is going to Republicans. And they're not alone, party swings have also happened at JPMorgan (JPM), Citigroup (C), Morgan Stanley (MS) and UBS (UBS).

Given the low public opinion of banks and Wall Street right now, this may not be such a bad thing politically, but it all seems obvious. Whether it's being openly criticized by the President as "fat cats", endlessly re-regulated under the still evolving tome known as the Dodd-Frank act, or fined and prodded by the dubiously created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, none of these issues hardly suggest that the President has "got the back" of the financial industry.

Add in a 3-month assault on Mitt Romney's career in private equity at Bain Capital, as well as some curious comments like "you didn't build that" to business owners, and you've got yourself more than enough uncertainty to douse enthusiasm for writing the incumbent a big fat check.

That said, as compelling as the funding-shift story is, you cannot lose sight of the fact that the race itself is, and will continue to be, very close. While jobs, the economy, and earning the confidence of business are seminal themes of this election, most accounts suggest that the actual deciding factor will be a small slice of still undecided voters from a handful of states. Of course swaying those voters will require lots of money, and the reversal of big business backers could prove to be very costly once the race gets into the home stretch.