Romney Donors Grapple With the Fiscal Cliff and Taxes

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waves to supporters before conceding at his election night rally, Nov. 7, 2012, in Boston.
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They spent millions of dollars backing the wrong presidential candidate, they were geared up to celebrate an Election Night victory that never happened, and now there's a good chance their marginal tax rates are about to go up.

They are the Romney high dollar donors. Mel Sembler, co-chair of Romney's Florida finance committee and a former ambassador to Australia and Italy, told ABC News he is "very discouraged" after supporting Mitt Romney for five years. Former bundler Eugene Atkinson is still "moping" over the election's outcome.

Romney's biggest donors have said they want to keep the finance team together and in contact possibly to support future candidates or issues in the future. Donors involved did not know exactly what causes or candidates they would back, but were committed to keeping the group of fundraisers in contact.

"Money in politics is nothing but voice," said Sembler. And just because the campaign is over the fundraisers are not keeping their opinions on the current state of affairs in Washington quiet.

High on their list is the potential increase in taxes and the fiscal cliff, which is what will happen at the end of the year when large spending cuts will take effect and tax cuts for most Americans will expire if Democrats and Republicans don't come to an agreement.

Republicans and the president are debating over whether to increase the top marginal tax rate on incomes above $250,000, with President Obama, who campaigned on the issue, insisting it has to be part of any fiscal cliff deal. It's the central arguing point in negotiations to avert what's known as the fiscal cliff.

Sembler supported Romney for five years, since his first run for the presidency in 2007, noting we "never really quit" after the last campaign.

"While we didn't get enough votes and lost the election, I still have great concern, not much about Mitt -- he will do wonderful, he's a successful guy -- but I'm concerned where this country is going," Sembler said.

Sembler said his main concern is the national debt, now over $16 trillion, and entitlements, an issue the Romney campaign put in the spotlight by choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate.

"You can take all the money from the rich that they have made and it wouldn't solve the problem," Sembler said. "Raising taxes $100 billion a year is not where the answer is. Where is your problem? Your problem is entitlements, the third rail of politics."

No one in politics wants to bring up the issue of entitlements "except Paul Ryan," said Sembler, adding it's "probably one of the reasons they got defeated because they were talking about entitlements."

He believes we've become "an entitlement nation," and one way to confront the problem is means testing: In the case of Medicare, if seniors can afford not to get entitlements, they won't be part of the pool.

"We should 'means test' for Social Security," Sembler said.

"My point is, the present administration is not addressing the current problems," Sembler said. "They are basically running for the 2014 elections for the House and the Senate. This administration is not addressing the real issues. The real issue is, we are going broke as a country."

Sembler noted that although raising his taxes wouldn't affect him personally, it could affect his business. He heads up the Sembler Company, which develops and manages shopping centers.

"It takes money away that you could invest, that you can use to create more jobs," Sembler said. "This administration never wants to talk about cutting spending.... It is a very serious problem."

Eugene Atkinson, who spent 20 years at Goldman Sachs, agrees with Sembler, adding, "Raising tax rates on who Obama calls the wealthy doesn't raise any money."

It may not be popular with megadonors, but taxing the rich is popular with the American people, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll from last month. Sixty percent of those polled said they support higher taxes on annual incomes above $250,000 while 37 percent are opposed.

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