ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Wall Street has shifted its allegiance in the 2006 election cycle by donating more to Democrats than Republicans who have been the investment banks' usual benefactors, U.S. Federal Election Commission data show.Thems some pretty heavy hitters.
Five leading firms Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Bear Stearns Companies Inc., Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch & Co. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. have contributed $6.2 million so far to candidates before the November elections, with about 52 percent going to Democrats.
"People give ideological money and they give money to people they think are going to win," said Maurice Carroll, director of Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute in Hamden, Connecticut. "It looks like it's going to be a good year for Democrats."
Despite being awash in record profits, Wall Street executives, investment bankers, brokers and traders may be getting weary of Republican control, Carroll said. President Bush's polling numbers are low and growing violence in Iraq also weighs heavy on Republican leadership, he said.
As Carroll points out, this is really just part of the story, however. What I'd be interested in seeing is the personal contributions of people like Ace Greenberg, et al, and where that money's going.
See, a public, high profile donation like these sends one message: we don't like what we see next. The personal contributions, however, indicate the political philosophies of the individual involved. If, for example, you were to tell me that, say, Jon Tester got $5,000 from Merrill Lynch, that's one message to Conrad Burns about his effectiveness as a legislator (and of course, an attempt to purchase Tester, just in case).
If, however, you tell me that 5 VPs got together and created a "Bullish on Tester" PAC, that tells me that, fundamentally, the individual mindset at Merrill Lynch is changing to a more progressive agenda, and that mindset is heavily influenced by peers and co-workers.
That's a far more basic and important shift in the political landscape. Even the 2004 election, for all its ghost shadow good news, wasn't nearly the cause for celebration that this year looks to be shaping up as.