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Wall Street donors cut support for Democrats' campaigns

WASHINGTON - A revolt among big donors on Wall Street is hurting fundraising for the Democrats' two congressional campaign committees, with contributions from the world's financial capital down 65 percent from two years ago.

The drop in support comes from many of the same bankers, hedge fund executives and financial services chief executives who are most upset about the financial regulatory reform bill that House Democrats passed last week with almost no Republican support. The Senate expects to take up the measure later this month.

This fundraising free fall from the New York area has left Democrats with diminished resources to defend their House and Senate majorities in November's midterm elections.

Although the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have seen just a 16 percent drop in overall donations, compared with this stage of the 2008 campaign, party leaders are concerned about the loss of big-dollar donors. The two committees have raised $49.5 million so far this election cycle from people giving $1,000 or more at a time, compared with $81.3 million at this point in the last election.

Almost half of that decline can be attributed to New York, according to a Washington Post analysis of records filed with the Federal Election Commission. Donors from that area have given $8.7 million so far this year, compared with $23.9 million at this point in the 2008 cycle, with most of those contributions coming from big contributors in the financial sector.

Reasons for the plummeting donations include concern about the economic recovery and the personalities of the campaign committee leaders, Democratic experts say. But the overwhelming factor is the rising anger among financial executives who think they have not been treated well, based on their support of Democrats over the past four years, according to lawmakers, party strategists and fundraisers.

However, some Democrats say pushing Wall Street reform is more important than any slippage in political donations.

"Democrats worked hard to pass reform with tough oversight, accountability and regulation, and it's no secret the big banks were against it," said Deirdre Murphy, spokeswoman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "But we believe preventing another financial collapse is the responsible thing to do, and at the end of the day, we will have the resources we need to compete in our targeted states, as will our candidates."

In reviewing the FEC records, The Post analyzed fundraising data for New York City and its suburbs in New Jersey, on Long Island and north of the city - a region that had become an outsized source of Democratic campaign cash. In the 2008 cycle, 28 percent of the two committees' itemized individual contributions came from the region.

In this election cycle, the percentage raised in New York is less than 10 percent of the total.

More than 600 regular donors from the New York area - whose four- and five-figure checks added up to $10 million for the DSCC and DCCC in 2006 and 2008 - have so far abandoned their effort to retain the Democratic majorities.

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