Some Wall Street Democrats Are Sitting Out Georgia Senate Races
(Bloomberg) -- As deep-pocketed Democrats on Wall Street celebrate the ouster of President Donald Trump, some are privately showing little appetite for backing the party’s remaining skirmishes in Georgia.
Employees of securities and investment firms poured about $77 million into President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign and the super-PACs supporting him, more than quadruple what they steered toward Trump. But the pair of Democrats facing runoff elections in Georgia against Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler on Jan. 5 are unlikely to see such lopsided support -- even with control of the chamber at stake.
For Wall Streeters, keeping the Senate in Republican hands means thwarting tax hikes for corporations and capital gains, as well as other policies that don’t align with their financial interests.
“Most Wall Street Democrats and certainly all Wall Street never-Trumpers -- Republicans that voted for Biden -- want a split government,” said Mike Novogratz, a long-time hedge fund manager and founder of Galaxy Digital.
Novogratz said he’s encountering reluctance to donate to Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock when sending fundraising emails for #winbothseats, an initiative meant to aid community organizers getting out the vote. The investor is a co-founder of the group that also involves Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur who ran for president in 2020, and Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia house minority leader and voting-rights activist.
“I got a lot of ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ or ‘What are you talking about?’ from guys I know voted for Biden,” Novogratz said. He still helped raise more than $2 million within a matter of two weeks for #winbothseats and another organization he’s affiliated with that’s involved in the Georgia runoffs.
The stakes in Georgia are high for the Capitol: If Ossoff ousts Perdue and Warnock beats Loeffler, Democrats would hold 50 seats, positioning Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to cast tie-breaking votes.
A prominent Wall Street Democrat who gave generously to Biden confided he hasn’t yet contributed to the Georgia races. The donor, who asked not to be identified, said he’s skeptical a Democratic sweep would matter much anyway because certain Democrats would block more progressive tax legislation.
Some are also put off by the challenge of flipping two seats, a view already visible as markets price in the likelihood of a Republican majority, according to one Democratic operative who predicts turnout for the party will sag without Biden on the ballot.
The dropoff in support is by no means universal. Even if the tumultuous transition period is sapping some of the energy around the Senate races, long-time investment banker Mark Patricof said people he knows are donating to the candidates. Some of his friends in finance are even traveling to Georgia to knock on doors for the Democrats.
“For the people who are passionate about Democratic politics, it seems like a no-brainer,” Patricof said.
Money doesn’t guarantee victory. Despite a fundraising advantage, Democrats hoping for a so-called blue wave failed to unseat Republican incumbents in several other key Senate races, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Iowa, Maine and Kentucky.
The first glimpse of who’s giving may emerge Thursday when party committees and super-PACs like the Senate Leadership Fund, which has ties to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and booked $36.8 million in the Perdue-Ossoff runoff, report their donors to the Federal Election Commission. Campaigns won’t file with the FEC until Dec. 24. Wall Street donors and fundraisers contacted by Bloomberg were unanimous in thinking there will still be no shortage of money on either side.
Favoring the incumbents wouldn’t be new. Even as Wall Street donors helped Biden, the industry’s giving has favored the Republican Senate candidates in Georgia this year.
Perdue raised $1.3 million, twice as much as Ossoff, from executives of securities and investment firms through Oct. 14, according to the most recent data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.
While Warnock raised almost $300,000 more than Loeffler, who largely financed her campaign with $23 million from her personal fortune, she benefited from other sources. Her husband, Intercontinental Exchange Inc. founder Jeffrey Sprecher, donated $5.5 million to a super-PAC that supported her, while Citadel founder Ken Griffin gave $3 million. Griffin also gave $1 million to Georgia Action Fund, which backed Perdue.
Now, some on Wall Street are reluctant to join the rush to saturate Georgia’s airwaves. About $259 million in paid advertising has been booked by the four campaigns and outside groups backing them, according to AdImpact data through Friday.
Warnock’s campaign is the biggest spender at $45.7 million, while Loeffler has booked $38.4 million of ad time. In the other race, Ossoff’s ad buys total $42.7 million, compared with $28.8 million for Perdue. Republicans, including super-PACs and party committees, are outspending Democrats in Georgia $156.7 million to $101.9 million.
“I don’t think the four candidates can actually spend the amount of money that’s going to be raised,” said Charles Myers, the chairman of Signum Global and a Biden bundler. “It just shows how crazy, and how corrupted money and politics are, frankly.”
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