Wall Street Leans Left in 2000 Fundraising Binge

Democrats attract attention from Wall Street's financiers, many of whom are moderately liberal-minded and/or politically ambitious. Tell us what you think on our message board.
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Vice President

Al Gore

will host a last blowout Manhattan fundraiser at the

Sheraton Sky Club

a week from Thursday, when he'll splash headlines with names of his top corporate-America and Wall Street contributors.

Talk about the Wall Street/White House connection on our

message board.

While the Street has always been fertile ground for political fundraising, this campaign season Democrats are holding a new sense of allure

for pinstriped, liberal throwback boomers.

The

Dow's

233% rise under the

Clinton

administration surely is part of the Democrats' appeal. There's also power in sight for big Street contributors: a shot at becoming the next

Robert Rubin

, Clinton's previous stalwart

Treasury

secretary and former chairman of

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

.

Meet the Clinton generation of Wall Street:

Lazard Freres'

Steven Rattner, former

Salomon Smith Barney

President Jamie Dimon, Solly investment banker Louis Sussman and hedge fund manager Orin Kramer are helping raise big campaign-trail bucks -- with two Democrats to choose from: Gore and "Dollar"

Bill Bradley

.

Sure, historically, Republicans have been the party of Wall Street. But behind wood-paneled doors, Street bigwigs generally slip money to both parties in a safe, neat political hedge, if you will. Goldman, for instance, turns up on the top contributors lists of Gore and Republican hopeful

Sen. John McCain

of Arizona.

Nope, they're not running to

George W. Bush

. This generation of investment bankers and money runners is stumping hard for Democratic hopefuls.

Jon Corzine

, former chief executive of Goldman Sachs, is running for

Senate

in New Jersey as a Democrat.

Lazard's Deputy Chairman Rattner is said to be aiming for a spot as Gore's future Treasury secretary and has been hosting fundraising dinner parties in his Fifth Avenue apartment.

Sussman, though based mainly in Chicago, is among Bradley's chief fundraising guns on the Street. Rattner and Sussman couldn't be reached for comment. Dimon declined to comment for this story.

If cold, hard cash is any indicator, the wingtipped set is handicapping Bradley ahead of Gore. According to the

Center for Responsive Politics, Gore has raised $754,731, and Bradley has raised $1.6 million, from securities and investment firms.

The top five contributors to Bradley's campaign include

Lehman Brothers

(LEH)

,

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

, Goldman Sachs,

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

and

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

(MWD)

. No surprise there. As early as last November, Bradley was quietly soliciting support from Wall Street contributors.

It's also no surprise that Year 2000 Democrats are attracting so much Wall Street interest. They aren't exactly lefties, but Democrats on the Street probably have inhaled a few times. "They're baby boomers who grew up with the

Peace Corps

," says one money manager. "They were all hippies at some point. And after Clinton's indiscretions, the Democrats are seen as the 'Live and Let Live' party."

"They got home from

Woodstock

, cut their hair and earned a million dollars," says another hedge fund manager ensconced in Greenwich, Conn. "Now they've made their fortunes and they can go back to saving the world."

This same money manager adds he's ready to cut a check for Bradley: "He's got a great jump shot and he's for gun control. Sign me up."

Signing them up is what Gore fundraiser Orin Kramer is trying to do on the Street. He has been "long" the Democrats for more than 20 years -- "since I was 7" -- and served in the

Carter

White House as a policy adviser.

Like a favorite stock's fundamentals, Kramer hurriedly rattles off Gore's credentials. "He is enormously qualified. There's no better selling point for the vice president than when he talks about China or Japan, or trade policy or entitlements," he says, then abruptly hangs up to meet with Corzine.

Even former Republicans are lining up behind Gore. Paul Beirne, a partner with

Sanford Bernstein

, founded "Republicans for Clinton" in 1992 and now fundraises for Gore. He credits "Clintonomics," a platform of low inflation and shrinking deficits, for making it "possible to be pro-business and pro-environment, or to believe the government can do some good. The Republicans have gone to extremes. They are being held hostage by the far right."

In the midst of what one strategist calls the U.S. "Ozzie-and-Harriet economy," Democratic and GOP economic platforms have converged. So it's on social issues that Wall Street is voting Democratic -- and secretly praying for a capital-gains tax cut.

"Bush is trying to cut

the Democrats off at the pass with his 'compassionate conservatism,' or 'rugged individualism.' But the Democrats finally have the high ground," contends Beirne. In other words, a vote for Gore by Wall Street is a vote for pro-choice, affirmative action, separation of church and state and a pro-environment stance "that won't kill the economy."

But supporting Democrats isn't just some Wall Street love-in. There is, of course, a stone-cold financial angle to the Street's support. Rubin has minted himself as a legendary, strong-dollar secretary of the Treasury, paving the way for Rattner or other Wall Street moneybags to take higher office.

"It's sort of an open secret that Rattner wants a top spot," says a Washington-based political strategist. "After all the stuff he's been doing for Gore, I can't imagine Rattner would accept anything less than deputy Treasury secretary, or undersecretary for International Affairs."

There is one nagging question: Will Gore, Bradley, Corzine and other Democratic hopefuls get lucky in 2000 because party incumbent Bill Clinton presided over one of the hottest tapes in history? After all, on the Street, the trend is your friend.

Ray Worseck, former

A.G. Edwards

chief economist in St. Louis, did a study some years back showing that it's still the economy, stupid: As long as there's no recession, the stock market mostly rises in election years. "If they don't see a recession coming, most business people will vote for whomever they want to," he says. "But the status quo is the best of all possible worlds."

Who do you think Wall Street wants for president?

Bill Bradley

George Bush Jr.

Steve Forbes

Al Gore

Elizabeth Dole