Obama had unusually strong backing from Wall Street for a Democratic presidential candidate. He raised more than $18 million from bank and brokerage employees, for example, compared with rival John McCain’s $10 million. (Obama did not accept money from PACs.) Prominent among Obama’s bundlers — individuals who raised at least $50,000 — were private equity executives and hedge fund titans, including billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin of Citadel Investment Group, who had previously backed Republicans.
But Obama soon encountered stiff opposition from the financial industry — and some fellow Democrats — over proposals to curb executive pay, tighten rules on financial derivatives and create an agency to protect consumers of mortgages, credit cards and other financial products. Financial executives have also bristled at the president’s increasingly populist tone over the past year, including his quip in December that he did not run for office to help “fat-cat bankers on Wall Street.”
The industry has responded with its own change in attitude, according to contribution data and interviews. For some prominent executives, the final straw came in January, when Obama proposed a fee on big banks to recoup losses from the government’s $700 billion program to bail out financial firms. When the president followed up a few days later with another plan to restrict the growth of large banks, some on Wall Street said they regretted their earlier support. “I’m not voting for him again,” one said.