Romney-backer is biggest Occupy Wall Street donor

A man holds a sign on the edge of Zuccotti Park in the Financial District where "Occupy Wall Street" protesters are living on October 17, 2011 in New York City (Spencer Platt / Getty Images / AFP)
Ex-banker Robert S Halper says he is “a little A.D.D.” with his philanthropy. Though he’s reached the cap on contributions to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, that hasn’t stopped the giving — he pledged $20,000 to start Occupy Wall Street.

Halper tells The New York Times that he initially rolled his eyes at the idea of Occupy Wall Street, but even still he offered up $20,000 to Adbusters, the anti-corporation Canadian magazine that helped start the protests. Despite initially being disinterested in the idea, Halper, a former banker that made his fortune on Wall Street, donated $20,000 to Adbusters magazine after discussing plans for the protests over dinner earlier this year with the publication’s founder, Kalle Lasn.

"I was more interested in talking about health care,” Halper tells The Times of his steak dinner with Lasn from a few months earlier. In the past, however, he estimates that he has given upwards of $75,000 towards the magazine, a regular recipient of the 100 grand or so he gives out to various causes every year. So, The Times says, “he wrote a check . . . and returned to his life in New York.”

Now one month into the ongoing movement, Halper says he regularly makes visits in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan to talk to the protesters.

Then there is the $2,500 he gave to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

“My giving is a little A.D.D. — like me,” he told The Times. Typically Halper makes his contributions to causes related to health care and the arts, but met Romney at a recent fundraiser and decided to cut him a check as well. Although $2,500 is the most a private donor can offer up to a presidential campaign, it is merely one-tenth of the recent check he signed to Adbusters.

It seems as though Halper more easily relates to the demonstrators in downtown New York than the former Massachusetts governor thankfully, so more donations could easily be in the future. Although the GOP top-tier candidates have largely ignored the ongoing protests, Halper himself says that his time at Zuccotti Park have allowed him to see things in a different light.

“If there’s pain, it should be shared,” Halper tells The Times. “The people who have money — they should pay something more, whether that’s in taxes or somewhere else.”

While only in his 40s, Halper retired in 2007 after a successful career on Wall Street.

“The whole thing is very surreal to me — the fact that I spent my whole career right across the street,” he tells the Times from just across Zuccotti Park. “It makes me a little anxious, to tell you the truth. It could go anywhere. I just pray that it ends peaceful.”

As the protests were still in its early stages, Mitt Romney called them “dangerous.” From New Hampshire yesterday, however, Romney discussed the movement once again, but was hesitant to offer support yet.

"Are there bad actors on Wall Street? Absolutely. And are there bad actors on Main Street? Absolutely,” he said. “All the streets are connected – Wall Street's connected to Main Street. And so finding a scapegoat, finding someone to blame, in my opinion isn’t the right way to go."

Romney is likely to touch on the ongoing movement this evening during tonight’s televised GOP debate live from Las Vegas.