Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, is reaching out to Wall Street executives to gauge potential support if she were to run for president in 2020, CNBC has learned.
Gillibrand has personally been working the phones and calling senior executives at Wall Street firms in recent weeks to see whether they would back her campaign if she jumps into the race, according to two senior business leaders who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Donors in the financial community helped back Gillibrand's successful re-election bid last year. Her effort to connect with business leaders this time comes as she contemplates entering what will likely be an expensive and protracted Democratic primary.
Gillibrand has gotten a mixed response from the executives, however. Some have enthusiastically kept the door open to helping her finance her possible 2020 operation while others are hesitant to return her calls.
A few business leaders and other Democratic Party donors have been privately critical of Gillibrand's early efforts to force the resignation of former Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, according to one of the sources familiar with the discussions. Gillibrand was the first Democratic senator to publicly call for Franken, a fellow Democrat, to resign after he was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women in 2017.
"While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn't acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve," she said at the time through a Facebook post. Gillibrand's comments led to several other women in the Senate demanding Franken to step down, including at least one other prospective 2020 presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
Franken supporters in the business community argue Gillibrand should have allowed the eventual Senate Ethics Committee investigation to conclude before rushing to demand the resignation of the Minnesota lawmaker. They also believe he was a champion for women during his time in the senate.
Even though Gillibrand has received donations from Wall Street, she has pushed for tightening regulations in the financial industry. She voted in support of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and then voted against a bill in 2018 that rolled back some bank regulations put in place in 2010. As a member of the House of Representatives, she voted against the bank bailout during the 2008 financial crisis.
Glen Caplin, a spokesman for Gillibrand, insisted that if the lawmaker from New York ran for president she would build her operation off of grassroots fundraising and would not confirm or the deny her efforts to reach out to Wall Street leaders.
"If Senator Gillibrand decides to run, she will run a campaign that takes no corporate PAC money and is powered by grassroots donations, and based on her values of standing up to those in power and returning our democracy to the people where it belongs," Caplin said in a statement to CNBC.
Later Gillibrand responded to this story in a tweet, noting her voting record on financial regulations. She did not deny having conversations with Wall Street executives about a possible 2020 run. The post was later deleted from her Twitter account.
Gillibrand later re-posted her response on Twitter, clarifying her position on the Glass-Steagall Act, saying she supports re-instating a new version of the law.