The political world is still in mourning from Willard Mitt “Mitt” Romney’s announcement last month that he will not mount a third campaign for the presidency in as many election cycles. But just because we’ve all been denied the transcendent charms of another Romney sequel doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there benefitting from Mitt’s departure. By taking himself out of the running, Romney freed up his network of bigwig donors and Wall Street bundlers, and the rest of the GOP’s 2016 aspirants scrambled to convince those rich people to throw their money at them.
Conventional wisdom held that the people who stood to gain the most from looting the corpse of Romney’s political career were Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. They, like Mitt, are favorites of the Republican establishment and could make the pitch that their manifest electability makes them a smart investment for anyone looking to literally buy a president. But they’re certainly not the only game in town, and it turns out that a good number of Romney’s financial-sector backers are throwing their support behind Scott Walker.
The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that Wisconsin’s Republican governor is the new favorite of some of Romneyland’s big-money finance guys:
They include hedge-fund manager Anthony Scaramucci, who says he has given $100,000 to Mr. Walker’s political-action committee and has set up meetings for him with around two-dozen donors in New York next week. He said his goal is to introduce Mr. Walker to more than 1,000 potential backers in the U.S. in the next six months.
Mr. Scaramucci said he admired Mr. Walker’s ability to make difficult—and potentially unpopular—decisions.
Ah yes, Anthony Scaramucci, the former Romney bundler who is the living, breathing, constantly talking mascot of the corrupting political influence of Wall Street. Scaramucci runs SkyBridge Capital, a small investment firm that targets the moderately affluent and convinces them to sink their money into hedge funds. More than a few people have argued that Scaramucci’s way of doing business is, as Felix Salmon put it in Reuters a few years ago, sleazy:
Scaramucci is a fund-of-funds manager, posting returns even he admits are lackluster: he more or less tracks the S&P 500, while making big, risky bets (a third of his assets are in MBS), investing in leveraged hedge funds, and reserving the right not to redeem his clients’ money upon request. Which means that he only has two ways to make money: either find stupid people to give him their money, or else shower himself with so many conspicuous indicia of success that people just want to buy into his perceived success.
OK, make that one way to make money.
As that excerpt makes clear, where Scaramucci really excels is self-promotion – he projects an aura of fantastical wealth and accomplishment which, when paired with obnoxious and back-slappy bombast, gives the impression that he’s a “player.” (His preferred nickname is “The Mooch,” which… just… yeah.) Every year he puts on a conference in Las Vegas for hedge-fund guys and top-tier politicos to shake hands, get drunk, and have a chuckle about how terrific it is to run the country. Scarmucci is a loud, wealthy person whose overriding goal in life is to tell loudly tell you how wealthy he is. “I am a total shit-stirrer,” he told New York magazine in 2012. “My middle name could be Shit-stirrer, except then my initials on my shirt would be a.s.s., and I can’t have that.”
And being loud and wealthy means that powerful political figures (like Scott Walker) will give deference to him. Politico profiled Scaramucci last year as part of a growing class of Wall Street donors with bloated egos to whom A-list Republicans come calling even though they’re largely uncontrollable and potential PR disasters waiting to happen. “The increasing willingness of the political class to turn a blind eye to megadonor antics reflects an evolution in political money: the biggest donors have become so powerful that operatives and politicians are loath to cut off anyone who can cut six- and seven-figure checks — no matter what kinds of problems they might cause.”
Scaramucci makes the cut not because he’s the wealthiest guy in the room, but because he’s an accomplished pitchman and bullshit artist who’s turned his personal brand into political power. That means he'll say and do stupid things to keep the spotlight on himself, which is precisely where his political friends would prefer it not to be. But he can cut checks and put the right people in touch with the right people, and that means would-be president Scott Walker will happily pay his respects to “The Mooch.”