* Wall Street hedges bets with incumbent
* Romney has also big financial sector backers
* Campaign spending in 2012 expected to set record (Adds comments, details of donations)
By Kim Dixon
WASHINGTON, July 22 (Reuters) - Despite howls of protests from many on Wall Street over some of President Barack Obama's policies, financial sector employees are giving at a greater rate to his re-election bid than during his last campaign.
One-third of the funds hauled in by Obama's big-money backers came from executives and others linked to the financial world, according to a report from the Center for Responsive Politics released on Friday.
The financial sector accounted for about 20 percent of what Obama's top fundraisers collected during his 2008 bid.
Several high-profile bank and hedge funds executives have griped publicly about Democratic policies, including the financial sector overhaul. Still, an incumbent is hard to beat and Wall Street likes to hedge its bets.
"Everyone likes a winner; Obama is the incumbent president and they are hard to oust," said Michael Beckel, a researcher at the center. "It is natural that they want to stay in his good graces even if some of them are upset" about certain policies.
Obama reported raising $86 million in the quarter ended June 30, which includes nearly $40 million raised for him by the Democratic National Committee.
Although Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has not named most of his so-called bundlers -- well-connected individuals committed to raising big cash -- the former private equity executive has previously attracted major backing from the financial sector.
Executives and others linked to Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and the Bank of America (BAC.N) have been big Romney backers. Romney raised a total of $18.4 million in the second quarter.
"From 30,000 feet, Wall Street is where a lot of candidates turn for money," Beckel said.
Among the big names aggregating funds for Obama are hedge fund executive Orin Kramer of Boston Provident and Blair Effron of investment firm Centerview Partners.
Romney is at a disadvantage in that Obama can raise money through the national committee, which can accept donations of up to nearly $31,000. Individuals can only give up to $2,500 to personal campaigns.
The former Massachusetts governor did release the names of the handful of lobbyists who had bundled funds, as required by law. Those include an executive at U.K. bank Barclays (BARC.L).
The vast majority of Romney's donations came from big donors, many of whom have already reached their legal limit. Obama has been successful on both ends -- with very small and very big contributions.
The 2012 campaign is expected to be the priciest ever by wide margins in part due to recent court decisions allowing unlimited donations to outside spending groups with no disclosure.
While the Democrats' financial sector overhaul has inspired ire, many on Wall Street were more upset with Obama's rhetoric, said Jim Kessler, a vice president at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way.
Obama has referred to bankers as "fat cats," for example.
"They felt they were being painted with a broad brush stroke by all Democrats in Washington, when many had absolutely nothing to do with the economic troubles going on," Kessler said.
At the same time, they give him credit for handling the financial markets collapse of 2007-2009, Kessler said.
Third Way is backed by trustees, several of whom have ties to Wall Street.
Individuals working for finance, insurance and real estate account for at least $11.8 million of the minimum $35 million raised by Obama's bundlers in the second quarter, according to the CRP analysis of the 15,000 pages of documents the campaign filed with federal election regulators.
During all of the 2008 cycle, financial sector fundraisers raised a minimum of $16.1 million of the nearly $77 million raised by top fundraisers.
Exact figures are unknown because the Obama campaign provided only ranges of funds raised.
(Reporting by Kim Dixon; Editing by Eric Walsh)