Wall Street Journal: Ackerman’s Take: Last Stand for New Jersey’s Scott Garrett?
Garrett’s support among financial firms has all but dried up

October 27, 2016
Should congressional Democrats win big next month, Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey has a good chance of being one of the top Republican casualties.

Mr. Garrett, 57 years old, has generally been seen throughout his political career as an ally of financial firms and a harsh critic of financial regulators. He is a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, an alliance of hardline conservatives that last year led the drive to oust then-Speaker John Boehner.He is also chairman of an important House Financial Services subcommittee, a powerful post that oversees financial regulators including the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Yet Mr. Garrett’s support among financial firms has all but dried up and now he’s in the fight of his political career against Democrat Josh Gottheimer, a former Microsoft Corp. executive.

Mr. Garrett’s change of political fortune stems from anti-gay remarks he reportedly made to Republican lawmakers in a closed-door meeting last year that were then leaked to the media. Almost immediately, big banks like Goldman Sachs Group Inc. stopped contributing to him, as did the Big Four accounting firms.

The drop-off in contributions from financial firms has been stark, particularly in the accounting industry. While accountants and accounting political action committees have previously been among Mr. Garrett’s top donors, they have donated only $17,008 to Mr. Garrett’s campaign and his leadership PAC in the current campaign cycle, down from $78,999 in the 2014 cycle, according to data recently compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Big Four accounting firms believe Mr. Garrett is now out to get them, according to people familiar with their thinking. Just before the House recessed last month, the New Jersey lawmaker announced he would back legislation siding with the firms’ regulator in a fight about whether the regulator’s enforcement actions should be made public. That legislation, which has been introduced by other lawmakers in prior years but never moved through Mr. Garrett’s panel, is stridently opposed by the firms. In an interview, Mr. Garrett denied he was seeking retribution, saying the Big Four simply don’t wish to have “transparency and accountability in their business dealings.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Garrett “is in deep electoral danger and has no one to blame but himself,” according to the Cook Political Report. A recent poll by Garin-Hart-Yang for the Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC finds Mr. Gottheimer surging ahead of Mr. Garrett 48% to 41% after a sustained barrage of ads accusing Mr. Garrett of bigotry and holding views of a “rural Alabama conservative,” according to Cook.

Rep. John Lewis (D., Ga.), the famed civil-rights leader, campaigned for Mr. Gottheimer in New Jersey this week, saying the candidate will bring people together.

In an unexpected twist, some top Republicans are supporting the Democrat. Meg Whitman, the chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. and a longtime Republican fundraiser, told The Wall Street Journal she is backing Mr. Gottheimer because she believes the incumbent lawmaker is a “Republican extremist.” Mr. Garrett responded in the Journal by doubting Ms. Whitman’s Republican bona fides.

Mr. Garrett could yet prevail, but the momentum in the race certainly appears against him.