Wall Street donors and bundlers plunged hundreds of millions of dollars into the GOP’s effort to take back the White House and Senate this year — and now some are threatening to cut off the spigot ahead of 2014 in the face of disappointing results.
New York donors have a list of complaints: Republicans focused too much on social issues, backed too many weak candidates, stalled Hurricane Sandy aid and even let taxes go up for the very rich — in other words, the very people giving the money and their friends.
That’s forced Senate Republicans — led by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) — to scramble to assuage their top givers so that a moment of frustration doesn’t lead to long-term defection.
“There’s a lot of disappointment on people that were supporting Romney because of how much he lost New York by, it was like 81 to 19, a tremendous loss,” said John Catsimatidis, a billionaire Republican who recently announced he was running for New York City mayor. “If President [Barack] Obama shows that Washington is more the middle of the road, gets away from the blame game, it may be harder to raise Republican money in New York.”
Portman’s been busy. He attended 12 meetings in just two days on a swing through New York in January. At one megadonor lunch, he presented a strategic plan for 2014. Portman said donors are eager to learn about the continually shifting landscape — including recent Democratic retirements in West Virginia and Iowa — as well as how the party intends to win seven Democratic seats in states that Romney won last year. And they want to hear directly from top senators about the lessons learned from the disappointing 2012 cycle — when Wall Street donors cringed alongside other Republicans as not one, but two GOP Senate candidates made controversial comments about rape.
“We’ve been able to show them an aggressive plan that we’re going to be working on,” Portman, vice chairman of finance for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told POLITICO. “Their interest was in ensuring we have a winning team on the field. They are interested in making sure we have a pro-growth agenda and we’re able to get this economy back on track and get the debt and deficit under control; those are good key issues.”
“They want us to show you how you’re going to succeed this time, where we didn’t last time,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), No. 3 in Senate GOP leadership, told POLITICO. “And there’s a lot of frustration from people who contributed to political campaigns, and then we lost a lot of races that they at least thought we should have won.”
And getting donors back on board could be harder than some expect.
Republican fundraisers have struggled to find willing donors post-election for lawmakers looking to make the rounds early in the cycle. One fundraiser said multiple companies and executives said not to come up to New York until after Sandy relief was passed.
“Everyone in the financial industry, much like the business world, look at politics as an investment, and they just don’t feel like they got much of a return,” said one financial services Republican lobbyist. “I think it is going to be tough this time.”
Donors, too, have been perplexed at the focus of some Senate GOP candidates on social issues.
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