For House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Wall Street is turning into a public relations headache and a political gold mine.
Threatened protests scotched one Cantor appearance at the University of Pennsylvania earlier this month, and a speech last week at Northwestern University drew demonstrators from Occupy Chicago.
Yet Cantor's popularity among Wall Street executives has cemented his status as the top rainmaker on Capitol Hill, helping him raise an extraordinary $6.5 million for his GOP colleagues so far this year. That sum includes direct contributions and money raised on behalf of GOP candidates, a Cantor aide said.
Cantor has leveraged about a dozen interlocking campaign committees to run a quasi-party operation around the conservative Young Guns movement he launched with Reps. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.). A former Cantor aide, John Murray, is now launching an independent organization built around an unrestricted super PAC and two nonprofits to spread the Young Guns message.
Cantor's personal political action committee has collected close to $2 million so far this year, placing it well ahead of any other leadership PAC in the House or Senate. In all of his fundraising efforts, top executives at banks, hedge funds and securities and investment firms play a starring role. Securities and investment industry donors have given close to $350,000 to both Cantor's campaign and his leadership PAC this year, making them his top source of donations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
But Cantor has raised millions more than that for a lucrative operation known as the Cantor Victory Fund 2012, a type of political organization known as a joint fundraising committee that may raise contributions far in excess of the individual limit of $2,500 per election. Sanctioned by the Federal Election Commission as a way for candidates to pool resources, joint fundraising committees raise big donations and then divvy up the dollars between multiple candidates and committees.
In the Majority Leader's case, the Cantor Victory Fund collects checks as large as $50,000 or more from individual donors and then parcels out the money to state and national GOP committees, to candidates in need and to Cantor's own PAC and campaign. Ten major donors, many of them top executives with finance industry firms, have given $50,000 or more this year to the Cantor Victory Fund, which has collected $2.4 million, according to the most recent public disclosures.
They include Randal Kirk, senior managing director and CEO of the investment management firm Third Security, who gave $50,200. The Cantor Victory Fund then doled the money out in chunks ranging from $2,500 to $30,200 to the Cantor campaign, the National Republican Congressional Committee and to a Virginia GOP fundraising committee that shares the same treasurer and address as Cantor's PAC.