Greenwich—It seemed that everyone at the party was a millionaire.
In one corner was NBA basketball star Grant Hill. In another was Linda McMahon, who spent $50 million of her own money in 2010 in a race for the U.S. Senate. Nearby was David Einhorn, who made headlines last year by offering $200 million to buy a stake in the New York Mets baseball team.
Welcome to campaign fundraising in 2012.
Greenwich has always been a leader in political contributions, but the difference this year is the explosion of money that is showering down on candidates. A landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling spawned the creation of Super PACs that can accept unlimited contributions. Then there are federal political action committees -- like Tannenbaum's -- that are designed to help those running for Congress. Money is also being raised for the Republican and Democratic national committees, as well as directly for specific candidates.
The winner in all of this, at least in Greenwich, is Republican Mitt Romney, who has received an estimated $8 million from Connecticut fundraisers in direct contributions in the current cycle. On top of that, some of the richest moguls in the nation are stepping forward with unlimited contributions that would have been unheard of only a few years ago.
Four Greenwich titans have contributed a combined $1.5 million to Restore Our Future, a Super PAC supporting Romney in the battle against President Barack Obama. They can contribute even more in the coming months.
There's $750,000 from Greenwich investor Chris Shumway, and $200,000 from hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, according to public records. Stephen Zide, an executive at the Bain Capital investment firm that Romney founded, contributed $500,000 in two installments. State Sen. L. Scott Frantz, arguably the state's top Republican fundraiser, gave $100,000 to the Super PAC, and he raised an additional $1.5 million directly for Romney's campaign in a single day, May 20, at a party that attracted 500 people to his waterfront home in Greenwich's Riverside section.
The contribution by Tudor Jones is significant because he hosted a huge fundraiser for Obama during the 2008 election cycle. Only four years later, Jones is now one of the largest contributors to Obama's rival.
"He's come full circle: 180 degrees opposite,'' Frantz said of Jones. "All of the hedge fund guys I know are squarely with Gov. Romney. Paul Tudor Jones is the poster boy for that movement.''
Jones, who rarely talks to the press, did not return a telephone call for this article.
Greenwich has become ground zero for Romney's money efforts, based on fundraising statistics that are calculated by ZIP codes by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C. Among more than 40,000 ZIP codes nationwide, Greenwich has two of the top 10 codes for direct contributions to Romney in the entire nation. As such, Greenwich, with a population of 60,000, has raised more money per capita for Romney than any other community except Manhattan's Upper East Side. Those figures do not include the $1.5 million that Romney collected last Sunday during a soiree at Frantz's waterfront home.
Democrats concede that they cannot match Romney's fundraising take in Connecticut, but they predict that Obama will win re-election in November. Both parties say the Democratic fundraising in Connecticut has been anemic when compared with the 2008 cycle, with big events in Greenwich by Tudor Jones and NBA basketball star Alan Houston on the same day.
"To be frank, I'd say that Greenwich is Romney country,'' said Ned Lamont, a millionaire Democratic fundraiser who lost races for the U.S. Senate in 2006 and governor in 2010.
"Most of the Obama fundraising is taking place in New York and elsewhere," Lamont said. "Democrats don't feel all that comfortable with Super PACs and unlimited donations. It gives folks an extra reason to say no this time. I think Republicans are more comfortable with Super PACs. There's an awful lot of folks that don't want to donate to a Super PAC.''
Lamont acknowledged that the fundraising cause has not been helped by increased financial regulations that were pushed by then-U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd and U.S. Rep. Barney Frank that have already been enacted.
"Hey, look, Dodd-Frank and a little more scrutiny of Wall Street has some of the folks around here more anxious,'' said Lamont, a longtime Greenwich resident.
Regarding Romney, Lamont said, "To the rest of the state, he's stiff, aloof and a little 1 percent. But here in Greenwich, he fits right in.''
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