Wall Street donors are a massive source of cash for political candidates.
Thanks to Crowdpac, a data firm dedicated to informing citizens about the political process, Business Insider has identified the top 16 finance industry megadonors heading into the 2016 presidential race.
Crowdpac analysed all of the Federal Election Commission’s campaign finance reports from the two most recent election cycles — 2012 and 2014 — to identify the top donors that came from a list of financial firms provided by Business Insider. It includes some figures who have long been associated with campaign cash as well as others whose role in politics has been far more obscure.
In total, Crowdpac says these 16 Wall Streeters are all within the top 150 donors from the last two cycles. And when combined, they’re responsible for 21% of all the donations from the top 200 in 2012 and 2014.
Based on Crowdpac’s analysis, this list skews conservative with six of the donors giving to mostly liberal figures and organisations compared to ten whose contributions lean conservative. However, the liberal donors are far less moderate while a few of the conservatives landed nearly on the middle of Crowdpac’s scale.
Here’s the full list of donors along with the amount of money they’re responsible for giving in the past two cycles.
1. Thomas Steyer – $US167,471,767
Steyer is the co-founder of the San Francisco-based hedge fund Farallon Capital Management, LLC. He left the company in 2012 to focus on philanthropy, political, and environmental activism. Since then, Steyer’s clearly been busy. According to Crowdpac, he’s, by far, the top donor on this list. Based on Crowdpac’s analysis of the causes he’s supported, Steyer is also the most liberal of the top Wall Street donors. He spoke on stage at the Democratic National Convention in 2012.
2. James Harris Simons- $US17,191,500
A mathematician who rarely gives interviews, Simons founded the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies. He used his mathematical expertise to become known as the “king” of quantitative analysis and to build up an estimated net worth of over $US14 billion. Simons retired at the end of 2009. He donates to largely Democratic causes, but according to Crowdpac, ranks at the bottom of the six liberals on this list,
3. Robert Mercer- $US15,189,788
Mercer is currently the co-CEO of Renaissance and was recruited from IBM by Simons. However, unlike his old boss, Mercer leans right. In fact, based on Crowdpac’s analysis he’s, by far, the most conservative donor on this list. He reportedly owns a super yacht named “Sea Owl.”
4. Paul Singer- $US14,623,969
Noted activist investor Paul Singer is the founder and CEO of Elliott Management Corporation. He is currently embroiled in a massive dispute with the government of Argentina and is suing them for over $US1 billion in debt. Singer is a conservative, but he supports same-sex marriage. In fact, Singer was one of the GOP donors who paved the way for the passage of gay marriage in New York in 2011 by throwing his support behind that legislation.
5. George Soros- $US9,523,200
Long a bogeyman for the right wing, hedge funder George Soros was one of the top financial opponents of President George W. Bush. The amount of his donations has dropped off slightly over the past two cycles, but Soros is clearly still a player. According to Crowdpac, he’s the second most liberal donor on this list coming in just a hair behind Steyer.
6. John W. Childs- $US6,955,400
As a private equity executive based in Massachusetts, perhaps it’s no surprise Childs was a major supporter of Mitt Romney in 2012. He is known as a leveraged buyout specialist and has worked on many high-profile deals involving companies including Snapple and Equinox.
7. Donald Sussman- $US5,891,540
Donald Sussman is the husband of Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and, naturally as the spouse of a Democrat, he’s the third top liberal donor on this list. Sussman started his career in finance as a 12-year-old in 1958 with a winning bet on the effect the Cuban Revolution would have on sugar exports. He went on to found his own hedge fund, Paloma Partners, which was acquired by J.P. Morgan in 2006. Since then, Sussman has continued to run the company in addition to backing and investing in other funds.
8. Kenneth C. Griffin- $US5,671,050
Last year, Ken Griffin raised eyebrows with a $US150 million gift to Harvard University that was the largest single gift in the school’s history. According to Harvard, the first is expected to “impact as many as 800 undergraduates every year.” Griffin, who is in the midst of a contentious divorce that could affect his fortune, also made millions in conservative donations between the last two election cycles.
9. Dick DeVos- $US5,290,281
Dick DeVos, the son of the man who founded the multi-level marketing company Amway, hasn’t just donated to conservatives. He ran for governor of Michigan as a Republican in 2006 and lost to Democrat Jennifer Granholm. DeVos is currently president of the Michigan-based investment management firm Windquest Group.
10. Julian Robertson- $US4,378,400
Investor Julian Robertson founded Tiger Management in 1980. In a nearly two decade old profile, Business Week described him as the “reigning titan of the world of hedge funds” in the early 1990’s and lauded his unparallelled “stock-picking acumen.” Last year, Robertson discussed his desire to see a Republican majority in Congress in an interview with Bloomberg.
11. Sean M. Fieler- $US3,063,031
Sean Fieler is president of Equinox Partners, L.P. and the Kuroto Fund, L.P. He also works with a variety of conservative organisations. Fieler is Catholic and has focused some of his efforts on organising religious voters who are against gay marriage and abortion. According to Crowdpac, Fieler is the third most conservative donor on this list.
12. Daniel Loeb- $US2,865,867
Hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb is the founder and CEO of Third Point LLC. Loeb is a former supporter of President Barack Obama. Based on Crowdpac’s analysis, his donations lean slightly conservative, but fall near the middle of the political spectrum. Loeb has a reputation for writing strongly-worded letters to other executives. In 2012, he aimed his pen at other hedge funders who supported Obama with a missive comparing them to battered wives. Loeb has focused much of his political activism on supporting gay marriage and charter schools.
13. Bernard Schwartz- $US2,611,514
Bernard L. Schwartz is chairman and CEO of his own eponymous private investment firm, BLS Investments LLC. He established the company in 2006 after spending over three decades at Loral Corporation, a defence contractor with billions in revenues, and its successor company Loral Space & Communications. He’s a liberal donor who describes himself as a “capitalist” that believes in a “regulatory society.”
14. David E. Shaw- $US2,547,417
Computer scientist and computational biochemist Dr. David E. Shaw founded D.E. Shaw Research in 1988. A liberal donor, he was appointed to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and by Obama in 2009. Shaw has served on the computer science faculty at Columbia University.
15. Bruce Kovner- $US2,228,600
Commodities investor Bruce Kovner has been described by New York Magazine as “George Soros’ right wing twin.” He founded the hedge fund Caxton Associates in 1983. Kovner has sponsored conservative newspapers and think tanks, but based on Crowdpac’s methodology, he is one of the more moderate GOP backers on this list.
16. Seth Klarman- $US1,851,400
Seth Klarman has been called an “investing demigod” by Forbes. Like Loeb, though his donations skew slightly conservative, Klarman sits near the middle of Crowdpac’s scale. He founded the Baupost Group, which is focused on betting long, in 1982. As of last year, the firm was managing around $US30 billion in assets.
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