Fresh off being named Donald Trump’s chief fundraiser, longtime financier Steven Mnuchin headed to Las Vegas for the nation’s largest hedge fund conference with one task: target elite donors to raise the $1 billion the candidate seeks for his general election campaign. From the first day of the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, or SALT, attendees roaming the conferences and halls of the Bellagio hotel traded sightings of Trump’s representatives mingling with the crowd of hedge fund managers and investors. There were even whispers that Trump might show up himself.
On Wednesday night, Mnuchin, a hedge fund manager at Dune Capital, wearing a dark tailored suit, dined with former House speaker John Boehner, billionaire hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin, and former CIA director David H. Petraeus—a gathering hosted by Anthony Scaramucci, hedge funder and SALT organizer.
"I introduced him to 15 to 20 people who are traditional Republican donors," Scaramucci told Fast Company while pausing between panels at the hotel's Tuscany Grill. "We’re trying to get them to rally around us."
Mnuchin also reportedly met with former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, and cosmetic business exec Georgette Mosbacher. The attitude from the financial industry was a lot more welcoming than in February, when Luke Thorburn, the sole Goldman Sachs employee who donated to the Trump campaign ($534.58), was put on leave due to his association with a website that sold hats that tweaked Trump's "Make America Great" catchphrase.
Despite all of the handshaking and potential money-passing, support for Trump at the conference felt shaky. Pro-Trump comments were often met with awkward silences from the crowd—and even gasps. Pickens’s support for Trump’s ban on Muslims in the U.S. for vetting purposes drew loud gasps from the crowd.
Even Scaramucci wasn’t a Trump supporter until about a week ago, previously referring to the Republican frontrunner as a "hack politician" and "an inherited-money dude."
He points to his "lifelong Republican" status as to what changed his mind on the presumptive nominee.
"He wasn’t my first choice, but he is my choice now and I’m going to work very hard for him," says Scaramucci.