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Republican fundraisers on Wall St shy away from Bush
By David Wighton in New York and James Harding in Washington
Published: August 26 2004 20:58 | Last updated: August 26 2004 20:58

Wall Street's enthusiasm for US President George W. Bush appears to have cooled as the presidential race tightens and concerns grow about foreign policy and fiscal deficits.

Some leading fundraisers of Mr Bush's re-election bid have stopped active campaigning and others privately voice reservations.

The New York financial community is expected to give the Republicans a lavish welcome when the president's party arrives for its national convention next week. Wall Street has been a big contributor to Mr Bush's record-breaking re-election fund. But one senior Wall Street figure, once talked of as a possible Bush cabinet member, said that he and other prominent Republicans had been raising money with increasing reluctance. “Many are doing so with a heavy heart and some not at all.” He cited foreign policy and the ballooning federal deficit as Wall Street Republicans' main concerns.

A Republican in the financial services industry concurs. “Many of them may be maxed out,” he said, referring to campaign contributions that have hit the legal ceiling, “but they are backing away from Bush.”

The deficit has been criticised by Peter Peterson, chairman and co-founder of Blackstone Group, the New York investment firm, and former commerce secretary under President Richard Nixon. In his new book, Running on Empty, he accuses both parties of recklessness but attacks the Republican leadership for a “new level of fiscal irresponsibility”.

One New York dinner in June 2003 raised more than $4m, partly thanks to the efforts of Stan O'Neal, chief executive of Merrill Lynch. Yet Mr O'Neal has done no fundraising for the campaign at all since then and friends say he is not supporting Mr Bush. “He is best described as independent,” said one. Another senior Wall Street figure, who has given money to the campaign, said he was among many Wall Street bosses who were impressed with Mr Bush's handling of the September 11 attacks. “But since then, I have lost faith over foreign policy and tax,” he said.

Even those who are campaigning for Mr Bush sound increasingly defensive. “Whether or not you like him, you can't change leaders during a war,” said the head of one Wall Street firm.

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