Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, U.S., August 3, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Thayer(reuters_tickers)
By Olivia Oran and Amanda Becker
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Groups of wealthy Republicans unhappy with Donald Trump have been privately courting prominent peers to join them in backing Democrat Hillary Clinton's U.S. presidential bid, several people involved in the effort told Reuters.
They say they are seeking money and endorsements from other Republicans disillusioned by Trump, their party's candidate for the Nov. 8 presidential election. Some have received encouragement from Clinton and members of her campaign staff.
"I made the decision that I wouldn't be able to look at my grandkids if I voted for Trump," said Dan Webb, a former federal prosecutor and a self-described "Republican for decades" working to win over prominent Republican business people in Chicago.
Trump, a New York developer making his first run at public office, has made traditional Republican donors uneasy with inflammatory statements about women, Mexicans, Muslims and war veterans, among others.
Big-name Wall Street donors can make a difference for Clinton. They could inject big money into a campaign. They might influence moderate Republicans to switch sides. Their support of Clinton challenges Trump's assertion that his business successes make him a better candidate for president.
With the political conventions barely over, the Republican effort to fundraise for Clinton is at an early stage. Some of the groups have yet to receive contributions because they must still file paperwork under campaign finance rules.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to comment for this story. Clinton spokesman Jesse Ferguson said business leaders are supporting Clinton because of her economic plan and because Trump "cannot be trusted to lead our economy."
WARY OF TRUMP
Groups formed to support Clinton include Republicans for Her 2016, run by Republican lobbyist Craig Snyder; a grassroots organization called R4C16, led by John Stubbs and Ricardo Reyes, officials in former President George W. Bush's administration; and the Republican Women for Hillary group co-led by Jennifer Pierotti Lim, an official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The first two groups are acting independently of Clinton's own effort. The third is acting in concert with her campaign.
"We wanted to go out there and be the voice for Republicans who were feeling wary about Trump and weird about publicly endorsing Hillary," said Pierotti Lim, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention at the Clinton team's invitation.
Webb, a partner at law firm Winston & Strawn, said he began his outreach after being approached by billionaire investor J.B. Pritzker and longtime Clinton associate Lanny Davis. Pritzker and Davis could not be reached for comment.
On Wednesday, billionaire hedge fund manager Seth Klarman said he would work to get Clinton elected because of comments by Trump he found "shockingly unacceptable." Although Klarman, who is the president and chief executive of The Baupost Group, is a registered independent, a review of filings shows his political giving has largely benefited Republicans over the years, including some of Trump's rivals in the state-by-state nominating contests this year.
Jim Cicconi, a former Reagan and George H.W. White House staff member and lifelong Republican, said he went public with his decision to support Clinton "to encourage others in my situation to do the same thing."
"I feel like I need to do something more than quietly pulling the lever," he said. "I'm willing to assist the campaign in any way that they want me to help."
WHITMAN, BLOOMBERG BACK CLINTON
Spearheading in part the Clinton effort to woo Republicans on Wall Street is Democratic strategist Leslie Dach, a former Walmart executive and aide to Bill Clinton, sources close to the Clinton campaign said.
People familiar with the Clinton drive say the Democratic nominee herself has spoken to Republican business leaders, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chief Executive Meg Whitman, who endorsed Clinton on Tuesday.
Clinton deputies courted former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ahead of a rousing speech he gave at last month's Democratic National Convention that urged Wall Street to support her.
Whether Bloomberg, a self-made billionaire media mogul and an erstwhile Republican, will play a role in courting other Republican business leaders has yet to be determined, a source close to the discussions said.
While some major donors are hesitant to back Trump, the candidate over the last month has pulled in millions of dollars in small-money donations to boost total contributions to more than $80 million for Trump's campaign and the Republican Party, nearly matching Clinton's $90 million haul during the same period.
(Additional reporting by Jennifer Ablan, Lawrence Delevingne and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York and Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston; Writing by Lauren Tara LaCapra; Editing by Howard Goller and Jonathan Oatis)