The latest political startup in the U.S., where the two-party modus operandi relentlessly sweeps third-wheel contenders to the sidelines, sprang up from an unlikely place: Wall Street.
The Serve America Movement (SAM) is the brainchild – or the pet cause, as Bloomberg puts it – of Eric Grossman, a 51-year-old top bank lawyer at Morgan Stanley.
“SAM is building a new political party for a new American majority. One where fairness, integrity, and common sense solutions work together to achieve real progress for Americans,” the inchoate party’s website states.
SAM is running on a core conviction to bridge the nation’s political and cultural divide by spurring civic and civil dialog. Aside from several upbeat slogans – “invest for future generations,” “embrace America’s entrepreneurial spirit,” and “achieve security through strength and principle” – the party’s platform remains obscure, lacking any substantive arguments on the topics that are cleaving public opinion.
What is clear from SAM’s page, however, is its appeal for backers, investors, and volunteers to push its mission forward.
“Perhaps it’s a fear of arrogance that people are like, ‘Wow you can’t say that, you can’t say you’re going to be a party,'” said Richard Bennett, a partner at investment firm B-FORE Capital and early SAM contributor. “I’m like, why not? What else are we going to do? That’s the only thing that’s going to fix it.”
Wall Street executives are already opting in. Grossman and several of his Morgan Stanley peers have funneled over $1.3 million to SAM, according to Bloomberg. Investment manager Dan Simkowitz has given $50,000, and John Mack, Tom Glocer, and Jim Cusick have each donated $10,000.
Grossman’s initiative seems to sit well even with Vice Chairman Tom Nides, a Democrat who said he encourages individuals with disparate worldviews to join the political process.
SAM’s largest financial injection – more than $900,000 – comes from Charles Wall, a former tobacco executive.
“Major donors are probably going to be finance or lawyers or Hollywood,” said SAM CEO Sarah Lenti, who served as a spokesperson for John McCain and a research consultant to Mitt Romney. “You have to be financed somehow.”
Rooted in New York, but headquartered in Denver, SAM also divulged cash tricking in from small benefactors across the country after its first voter survey in Kansas.
Hardly the first attempt to introduce new weight on the U.S. political scale, SAM has already tapped candidates to run under its banner. Stephanie Miner, a former Syracuse mayor and a top Democrat in New York, is among them.
“Let’s have civil dialogue,” she said.