President Obama spent nearly $684 million of his campaign money during the 2012 election. Many have said that President Obama has been in the pockets of Wall Street for years, but the campaign finance data tells a story of two dramatic shifts.
The 2008 election
In 2008, President Obama received more than $2.5 million in campaign finance support from employees at Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), and Citigroup (NYSE:C) alone. While there were distinctly more Wall Street firms represented on the list of supporters of John McCain, the reality is that McCain's Wall Street ties only garnered him $1.5 million in support:
In fact, the contributions from Goldman Sachs employees alone to Barack Obama outpaced McCain's total contributions from his top three firms of Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup.
This was a dramatically divergent trend from past elections, as in 2000, George Bush raked in nearly three times more from Wall Street when compared to Al Gore. That held true again in 2004, when President Bush received $36.2 million from those in finance, insurance, and real estate, more than twice the amount Democratic senator John Kerry received.
In total, Obama received more almost $44 million from those in the finance industry, of which $16.6 million came from those classified in "securities & investment," i.e., Wall Street.
The run-up to the 2008 election was also the height of the financial crisis. In fact, the Lehman Brothers collapse on September 15th was exactly 50 days prior to the date on which Barack Obama defeated McCain. And statements from each campaign provide some evidence as to why Obama was favored by Wall Street.
While the Obama campaign took a pragmatic stance during the financial crisis, noting, "[i]n front of audiences on Wall Street and Main Street, Sen. Obama has proposed an aggressive plan to mitigate the sub-prime mortgage crisis both to protect homeowners and to prevent the problems in the housing market from taking a toll on the economy as a whole," it was a dramatically different tone than the one struck by John McCain.
In an interview, McCain said bluntly to ABC's George Stephanopoulos, (emphasis added), "I think that Wall Street is the villain in the things that happened in the subprime lending crisis and other areas where investigations and possible prosecution is going on."
There is no denying Obama was greatly favored by Wall Street and the financial sector in 2008, but the 2012 election tells a radically different story.
The 2012 election
Consider how dramatically the campaign contributions shifted in 2012, where no financial firm was among Barack Obama's top seven donors, whereas all of presidential candidate Mitt Romney's top seven donors were:
In fact, apart from the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, 14 of the top 15 organizations represented by Romney's donors were Wall Street firms. Were it not for public accounting firm Deloitte, which ranked eighth in employee campaign contributions for Obama, not a single firm in the financial industry is found on Obama's list.
Romney's contributions from those in the Securities & Investment industry were almost 350% higher than President Obama's, and roughly three times more when looking at the broader financial industry:
In total, Obama's contributions from those in finance were $23 million less in 2012 when compared to 2008, a decline of more than half. This was driven by the 60%, or $10 million drop from those employed on Wall Street.
While many chalk this up to Romney's close ties to the financial industry -- which is certainly true -- another reason is the dramatically different tone from President Obama regarding banks.
Consider the 2012 campaign websitesays, "President Obama passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to hold Wall Street accountable, prevent future financial crises, and end the era of 'too big to fail.'"
Wall Street reform aims ensures that if a financial company fails, it will be Wall Street that pays the price -- not the American people -- and sets ground rules for the riskiest financial speculation."
That language is a far cry from the, "mitigate," "protect," and "prevent" verbiage used in 2008.
Say what you will about Barack Obama, but the reality is, he lost a great deal of support on Wall Street from the 2008 campaign to the 2012 election.