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Guess who's raising money for Romney: Bigwigs from private equity firms

Republican heavy-hitters are calling for an end to fierce attacks centered on GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney's career as a venture capitalist. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.

Mitt Romney faces continued criticism over his refusal so far to release the names of his campaign “bundlers” -- the big money fundraisers who have helped him rake in tens of million dollars for his presidential race. 

But two invitations to Romney private fundraisers, obtained by NBC News, reveal where many of them come from: big private equity firms.


It's the same corporate buyout industry where Romney, as chief of Bain Capital, made his personal fortune and which, in recent days, has become a campaign lightning rod.

Steve Schwarzman, co-chairman of the  Blackstone Group, the biggest of all Wall Street private equity firms, is listed as the “event co-chair” at both Romney events, including one tonight in Palm Beach, FL that is expected to bring in over $1 million.
 
The invite for the event -- at the home of Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross -- states that event co-chairs are responsible for raising at least $50,000 a piece. (Other co-chairs include billionaire financier and Home Depot founder Ken Langone, sugar baron Pepe Fanjul, and energy executive Bill Koch, whose two brothers head  Koch Industries.)  

Schwarzman, whose firm has partnered with Bain Capital on deals since the 1980s, was dubbed by Fortune in a 2007 cover story as “The New King of Wall Street.” He also kicked off a firestorm two years ago, when he compared the battle over President Obama’s proposal to increase the tax rate paid by private equity partners to a “war” like “when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.” (Schwarzman later apologized for what he called “an inappropriate analogy.” )

NBC's David Gregory talks to TODAY's Matt Lauer about whether fierce attacks on Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney will backfire against his rivals or stop what seems to be Romney's inevitable march to the nomination.

But he is hardly the only Wall Street private equity baron that is bringing in large sums of cash for Romney’s campaign.  

The invitation for another Romney campaign fundraiser -- slated for next Tuesday at New York’s Sheraton Hotel, and which a source tells NBC News is expected to bring in about $1.5 million -- lists Schwarzman and 23 others as “event co-chairs,” according to a copy the invite.

Of that total, 16 are from Wall Street private equity and venture capital firms, either as top executives, their lawyers, or lobbyists. 

Among them:  Wayne Berman, the Washington super-lobbyist (and Romney national finance co-chair) whose clients include Schwarzman’s Blackstone Group; Alex Navab, a top partner of KKR, another private equity powerhouse and the co-chief of its North American Private Equity portfolio; and Anthony Scaramucci, aka “The Mooch,” and chief of the Skybridge Partners hedge fund.

The invite also lists another 125 “event co-hosts” -- many of them also from Wall Street, including one notable name: Ed Conard, the former Bain Capital partner of Romney’s who attracted attention last summer after NBC News revealed a mysterious one million dollar donation to the Romney Super PAC that came from a Delaware limited partnership that was set up shortly before the donation was made -- and then shut down.
 
After a storm of criticism, and calls for a Justice Department investigation, Conard revealed himself to be the source of the donation.

The Romney campaign did not respond to an email request Thursday asking whether it intended to fully disclose the names of its bundlers. But in an email exchange over the subject last summer, Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the campaign said: “We disclose all of the information about our donors as required by law and anyone who is interested can review it publicly. And, anyone wishing to donate to our campaign can do so at www.mittromney.com.”