Top executives at Legg Mason aren't big contributors, although the most active donor is Mark Fetting, who recently stepped down as chairman and CEO. Fetting gave strictly to Democrats this cycle, contributing $5,000 to Sarbanes, $2,500 each to Cardin and Hoyer, and $2,000 to Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger. He also contributed $10,000 to the Investment Company Institute's PAC.
Also, Legg's political action committee donated $5,000 each to Hoyer and Cardin.
But Fetting's contributions aren't in line with Legg employees' overall or, for that matter, with those of Nelson Peltz, the shareholder activist on Legg's board who is believed to have influenced Fetting's decision to step down.
Among Peltz's donations: $30,800 to the Republican National Committee; $50,000 to the Romney Victory Inc.; $25,000 to the super PAC Restore our Future, which is backing Romney; and $5,000 each to Romney and Herman Cain, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
Legg employees generally lean Republican. Of the $119,900 donated by employees to candidates, 69 percent went to Republicans, Responsive Politics reported. Romney is the top recipient, collecting $30,600.
In second place — which may seem an odd choice from Baltimore-based Legg — is Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, a Republican. A tea party favorite, Walsh frequently makes headlines for controversial comments, such as his suggestion that his opponent, Tammy Duckworth — a pilot who lost her legs in the Iraq war — was not a true hero.
Legg employees donated $10,000 to Walsh, half of which came from Stephen Walsh, chief investment officer with Western Asset Management, a Legg subsidiary in California.
"It's my brother, whether I agree with every one of his comments or not," Stephen Walsh said. "I would support any family member."
Added Stephen Walsh: "Everyone hassles me. I get every update. 'Your brother said something crazy last night.' I would say, 'OK.' "
Stephen Walsh said he doesn't give to politicians besides his brother. But he added that the switch in Wall Street's contributions this election season is not surprising.
"You would expect to see some sort of shift given the anti-bank or anti-Wall Street approach the administration is taking," Walsh said.
Not everyone in high finance agrees.
"Wall Street is broken," said John P. Hussman, president of Hussman Funds in Ellicott City. "The financial system has turned into something akin to a casino."
Hussman gave $2,500 last year to liberal Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who helped launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and now is running for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts. At the same time, he donated $2,500 to conservative Republican Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey, who sits on the House Committee on Financial Services.
It's an unusual pair of contributions, but Hussman said both candidates favor "careful oversight" of the financial sector.
Hussman, who donated generously to Obama in 2008, hasn't abandoned the president, either. This election cycle he has given $5,000 to Obama, $20,000 to the Obama Victory Fund, as well as $15,000 to the Democratic National Committee.
"My concern is that Mitt Romney will push us further in the direction of treating financial institutions with kid gloves," Hussman said.
The president also has the backing of those at Brown Capital Management in Baltimore. Workers at the Baltimore-based investment firm donated $38,500 to candidates, with Obama receiving $32,000, Responsive Politics reported.
Founder and CEO Eddie C. Brown donated $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee, $45,800 to the Obama Victory Fund, $5,000 to Obama, $1,000 to Cardin and $500 to Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Many financial companies in Maryland, however, haven't donated.
"It's not our thing," said James Hardesty, chairman of Hardesty Capital Management in Baltimore. Besides, he added, the incivility and gridlock in Washington are reasons not to pull out the checkbook.
Still, Hardesty has made an exception before, when he donated in the 1990s to support an old college friend — Bill Clinton.
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