April 24 (Bloomberg) -- Democrats outdid Republicans last year in attracting political donations from investment banks, brokerages and fund managers for the first time since 1994, helped by support from hedge funds and companies such as Merrill Lynch & Co.
Democrats got $13.6 million, or 52 percent of the financial industry's $26.3 million in political donations in 2005, said the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan Washington group that researches the influence of money on elections and public policy. In the two years leading up to the 2004 presidential election, Republicans received 52 percent of the $91.6 million given by the industry.
Merrill Lynch, the world's largest securities firm, is home to another one of Bush's 2004 Rangers, Chief Executive Stanley O'Neal. Merrill's political action committee, which pools executives' donations, is on track to give more money to Democratic candidates than to Republicans for the 2006 election for the first time in the PAC's quarter-century history, if current trends hold.
Why would Wall Street have a change of heart? Because Bush policies are bad for all business, even big business. The broad markets, including the job market, prospered under Clinton. But under Bush-Cheney only energy-related cronies are rewarded, punishing the bulk of the stock market that has moved sideways for five long years. The returns on your 401(k) account are probably only now approaching where they were when Clinton left office.
And yet all these Wall Street donation-bets are hedged if not schizophrenic in their inconsistency. Morgan Stanley's CEO gave to Bush, Santorum, and (ahem) Hillary Clinton. Wall Street loves winners — and that's why they're switching horses.