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JPMorgan makes Wall Street regulation a campaign issue again

By Ashley Killough, CNN
updated 6:01 PM EDT, Mon May 14, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama's campaign has raised about $7.8 million from the financial sector
  • Certain conservative groups cry "hypocrite" over Obama's Manhattan money hauls
  • Romney's campaign has raised $18 million from the sector this cycle
  • Romney uses his business background as a major point of contrast with Obama

(CNN) -- Even as his campaign portrays him as a champion of the middle class and a crusader to keep Wall Street from melting down as it did three years ago, President Barack Obama was set to leave New York Monday with a sizable haul of cash from industries whose excesses he decries from the stump.

After other stops in Manhattan, the president was to attend a private dinner hosted by Tony James of the Blackstone Group, an alternative asset management and financial services company. Tickets for the event cost $35,800.

The trip marked one of many fund-raising events the president has held in New York this year and adds to the already hefty war chest Obama has built from Wall Street contributions.

Obama's campaign has raised about $7.8 million from the financial sector, which includes real estate, insurance, and securities and investment industries, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Nonetheless, Obama is far behind his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, who has raised $18 million from the sector this cycle, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

In his 2008 campaign, Obama took in more money from the financial sector than any other candidate in history, campaign finance reports show. At the time, he raised $15.8 million alone from securities and investment firms, besting Republican presidential nominee John McCain's $9.2 million from the same industry.

Add real estate and insurance firms into the mix and that number jumped to $42 million overall for Obama and $31 million for McCain.

The pattern is not lost on certain conservative groups who cry "hypocrite" over Obama's Manhattan money hauls.

Ahead of his visit Monday, conservative group American Future Fund went after Obama in a new television ad, attacking him for taking substantial contributions from financial-sector employees despite pushing for Wall Street reform over the years.

"I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat-cat bankers on Wall Street," Obama said in 2009 television interview, which was used as a clip in the commercial.

The ad then points out that Obama voted as senator for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, also known as the Wall Street bailout.

Also mentioned in the spot are members in Obama's administration and inner circle who have links to big banks, including former Democratic New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, whose firm MF Global declared bankruptcy in October, losing millions for investors.

Team Obama announced in December that it was returning all donations from Corzine, who was a major bundler for the campaign.

To further shape his image as a soldier against Wall Street excess, the president and other top Democrats frequently tout the formation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the passage of the 2010 financial reform bill, both of which occurred under Obama's presidency.

The American Future Fund ad comes days after JP Morgan Chase announced a staggering $2 billion loss following some complicated hedge fund trading, raising concerns of setbacks for the financial industry as it tries to recover from the 2008 meltdown.

Political observers say financial regulation could soon emerge as a key campaign topic, as Democrats will likely highlight a need for stricter enforcement, while Republicans may use the incident as an example of failed policies in the Obama administration.

Romney, has previously called for the repeal of the Democratic-led financial reform bill, also known as Dodd-Frank, although he has conceded some points have merit. Instead he proposes what he refers to as "common-sense regulation."

"As President, Gov. Romney will push for common-sense regulation that gives regulators tools to do their jobs, and that gives investors more clarity," his spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, said in a statement responding to the JP Morgan Chase incident on Friday.

Meanwhile, Obama's campaign said Friday a takedown of Dodd-Frank would be "reckless."

"Rolling back Wall Street reform, as Mitt Romney proposes, would be reckless. The law promotes transparency, limits the types of risky investments that can be made with deposits insured by federal taxpayers and prevents investment losses at one bank from threatening the whole financial system," campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement.

The fact that Romney is outpacing Obama in financial sector contributions comes as little surprise, given the former Massachusetts governor's history as a Wall Street capitalist. He founded and headed the private equity firm Bain Capital -- a venture that launched Romney into a lucrative career and helped build his multimillion-dollar portfolio.

Romney uses his business background as a major point of contrast with Obama, saying his time in the private sector gives him a substantive edge over the president in terms of economic issues.

"What the president has done -- and I think unknowingly, never having spent any time in the private sector himself -- is ... one item after another, make it harder and harder for small business to thrive and to grow and start up," Romney said at a small business event in Virginia earlier this month.

CNN's Manav Tanneeru and CNNMoney's Charles Riley contributed to this report.

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