CT financial industry that backed Romney shunning Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump holds a sign he said showed how little he had received in contributions from people who work at hedge funds compared to Hillary Clinton.

Kyle Constable / CTMirror.org

Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump, at an August rally in Fairfield, holds a sign he said showed how little he had received in contributions from people who work at hedge funds compared to Hillary Clinton.

Washington – Mitt Romney raised more than $1.5 million from people connected to Connecticut’s financial services industry, but few of those deep-pocketed donors are giving to Donald Trump.

An analysis by the Connecticut Mirror shows that, as of the end of July, Trump had only raised about $11,000 from 39 contributors from that sector, which includes banks, hedge funds and investment companies, insurers and real estate developers.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton raised nearly $172,000 from 425 individuals who work in that sector, even as she has promised to rein in Wall Street with a new risk fee on large financial institutions and increased penalties for financial crimes.

About a dozen of the donors who donated to Clinton gave to Romney four years ago or have supported other GOP presidential candidates or both.

One is Russel Bernard, managing principal of Westport Capital Partners, who donated to Romney in 2012 and now supports Clinton.

“You can’t give to Donald Trump; he’s not qualified,” Bernard said. “Hillary Clinton is the most qualified of the presidential candidates. You have to put country ahead of party.”

Madison Grose of Greenwich, senior managing director of Starwood Capital, gave to Romney, then Clinton. So did Michael Smith of New Canaan, an investment banker with Goldman Sachs.

A tilt toward Clinton can also be seen by the donations of those employed by Bridgewater Associates. The Clinton campaign raised $27,513 from 34 Bridgewater employees while Trump raised $213 from two people employed by the mammoth hedge fund company.

One Clinton supporter was Bridgewater Chief Investment Officer Gregory Jensen, who also donated $2,700 to Florida Sen Marco Rubio before the Republican dropped out of the race.

Meanwhile, few members of Connecticut’s financial community donated to Trump and those who did tended to give small amounts. Joel Johnson, founder of the Johnson Brunetti financial retirement firm and host of the  “Money Wisdom” radio show on WTIC, was the only donor who gave the maximum contribution allowed by law, $2,700.

He said he donated to the Trump campaign because his clients, who are of more modest means than those who invest with big Wall Street firms, need a “shakeup” in government to address their needs.

“I don’t think Donald Trump is the ideal candidate. I disagree with him on some things, but I think a change is healthy for our nation,” Johnson said.

The prevalence of well-heeled donors from the financial services industry has made Connecticut, especially wealthy Fairfield County, known as the nation’s “political ATM,” a favorite site for politicians who want to raise campaign cash.

The Clinton campaign has held several fundraisers in the state. Clinton’s take from Connecticut’s financial sector is likely to be boosted by a $33,400-a-plate event held in Greenwich last month by real estate developer Richard Richman.

While most of that money went to the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising account with the Democratic National Committee, federal law allows up to $5,400 per donor to go to Clinton’s personal campaign account.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign has yet to host a single fundraiser in Connecticut. That may be part of the reason the Clinton campaign has outraised the Trump campaign in Connecticut. As of July 31, Clinton had raised $4.7 million in the state while Trump had raised only $341,000.

Roulette wheel of risk

A super PAC supporting Clinton’s candidacy, Priorities USA, which has raised about $110 million, has also benefited greatly from Wall Street money. It’s top donors are George Soros of Soros Investment Fund and hedge fund billionaire James Simons.

In the 2012 presidential election, the financial-services sector donated more than any other industry, topping $90 million in total contributions to campaigns.

In that election, three times as much Wall Street money went to Republican nominee Mitt Romney as to Democrat Barack Obama.

But that trend has been demolished.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, nationally the Clinton campaign has raised about $37 million from the financial services industry while Donald Trump has raised about $830,000.

Andrew Weinstein, a former Republican strategist and adviser at the Securities and Exchange Commission, says there’s good reason for the financial services industry to prefer Clinton, even as Trump has promised to repeal Dodd-Frank, a reform bill Wall Street hates, and opposes the proposal to break up big banks.

“Clinton is a known entity, and from the financial services perspective, a fairly safe one,” Weinstein said. “Trump is not only a complete wildcard, but his policies  would potentially cause catastrophic damage not only to the financial service industry but to the economy as a whole.”

Weinstein said Trump’s protectionist stance on trade, his willingness to allow “massive deficit spending” and pursue “whatever fiat pops into his head in a given day,” has given Wall Street plenty of worry.

“The financial services industry likes predictability, and President Clinton would be very, very predictable while President Trump is a spin on the roulette wheel of risk,” he said.

Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics also said stability is important in the financial world.

“I think Clinton is clearly more the candidate of continuity than Trump is,” he said “The financial world is going with the devil they know over the devil they don’t.”