Billionaire financier Ken Langone, who once described himself as a "relentless" fundraiser for Chris Christie's bid for the White House, has recently toned down his efforts on behalf of the New Jersey governor, the FOX Business Network has learned.
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Langone continues to support Christie's presidential ambitions, but according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter, Langone in recent weeks has been a noticeably less visible and aggressive fundraiser on Christie's behalf. He has told at least one GOP operative that the reason for the pull back is Christie's poor poll numbers, which makes it difficult to convince possible donors to write checks for the governor's presidential campaign.
“I haven’t received a call for weeks now,” said one Wall Street executive who has ties to the GOP, “and Ken isn’t bashful about calling me when he wants to raise money.”
A spokeswoman for Langone declined to comment specifically on the matter, but pointed to interviews with the FOX Business Network and a Fox News interview where Langone said that as recently as this week, he made as many as “nine calls” to potential fundraisers, who said they were not writing fundraising checks until the crowded GOP filed winnows down to “four or five people.”
A spokeswoman for Christie said “Ken has been a longtime supporter who continues to support the governor.”
Langone, one of the co-founders of Home Depot (HD), is considered a prolific fundraiser for charities such as the restoration of St. Patrick's Cathedral as well as for political candidates, mainly those in the GOP. For at least the past two years, he has been the most vocal supporter of Christie for the GOP presidential nomination and has continued, until recently, to prod GOP donors for money.
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But in recent weeks, Langone tactics have changed, according to people with direct knowledge of his fundraising efforts. They describe his recent conversations with potential donors as less assertive; instead of asking for money, Langone merely weighs people’s appetite for possible future contributions, they say.
“When Ken calls for money, you never say ‘no’ because when you want something he doesn’t say ‘no’ to you,” said another Wall Street executive who has frequent contact with Langone. “If Ken made calls and didn’t raise any money it means he didn’t really ask for money and was merely testing the waters for the future if Christie becomes a viable candidate.”
Christie was once considered a top tier candidate, but, at least for the moment, national polls show him consistently stuck in single digits among GOP voters in the crowded Republican field. Leading the pack so far in the race has been retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and billionaire real estate developer and reality TV star Donald Trump, who has said he will self-finance his campaign.
According to campaign documents, Christie has raised $18.5 million as of the end of September, and has nearly $13 million in cash on hand. But there are signs that his campaign is taking steps to conserve cash as fundraisers have stopped writing big checks. Last Sunday, he was spotted taking the Amtrak Acela home to New Jersey from Washington, D.C. instead of flying back on a private jet or even flying commercial. Christie made some headlines when he was asked to leave the Acela’s quiet car because he was speaking loudly to campaign aides.
"Our campaign has been focused on spending our donor's money wisely; however, the governor has been traveling by train to D.C. for years."
Like Christie, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was seen as a top tier candidate, but his polls numbers too have been stuck in single digits. Unlike Christie, however, Bush has raised close to $130 million. Christie meanwhile is behind Bush, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Carson, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio in terms of raising money.
As Christie has fallen behind in the race for cash, many GOP insiders are pointing at Langone’s recent change in tactics. In June, Langone described his fundraising approach to the National Journal as “relent-less…I’m not going to stop. I put a mirror under your nose. If I see mist, I ask you for money. If there’s nothing there, I’m talking to a stiff.”
But, according to one GOP operative, “Ken has stopped twisting arms.”