Largest Hedge Fund Political Donations Go to Democrats

The five largest hedge fund donors all lean democratic.

April 20, 2010, 1:38 PM

April 20, 2010— -- While hedge fund managers might be presumed to be eager to help the GOP beat back Wall Street reform, the reality is that the biggest of the big-time spenders funneled their donations primarily to Democrats, the party that holds Congress and the White House.

According to an analysis done by the Center for Responsive Politics for ABC News, the five biggest hedge fund donors all gave almost all their donations to Democrats.

The most any individual can contribute in aggregate to candidates, party committees and PACs, in any one election cycle, is $115,500. For some hedge fund managers, that would barely amount to what they make per hour. Hedge funds make money for big investors by trading a wide range of securities, often using leverage and selling short -- betting that a stock, bond or even a mortgage security will fall in value.

So which hedge fund managers are making the most political contributions, and to whom are they giving?

The CRP ran some numbers to help find out. Curiously, George Soros, among the highest-earning managers of 2009 and a well-known Obama supporter, did not make the Top 10 list.

Here's a rundown of who did make the list:

*With $94,100 in contributions over the past year, Jim Simons is the single largest political donor among hedge fund managers. The founder of quantitative hedge fund powerhouse Renaissance Technologies gave almost all of that total to Democrats, including Senators Harry Reid of Nevada, Chris Dodd of Connecticut and New York's Charles Schumer. Dodd is in charge of the committee working on a financial reform bill.

*Former Goldman Sachs star trader Eric Mindich, who a few years ago pulled off one of the largest hedge funds startups in history, doled out $89,600, all to Democrats, including Reid, Dodd and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

*Michael Sacks, CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management and a big Obama supporter, donated $76,425, all to Democrats, including $1,000 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and $2,300 to Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.

*Henry Laufer, who works for Simons' Renaissance, gave $73,600, all to Democrats. Among the recipients was HILLPAC, the PAC started by Hillary Clinton to support Democratic candidates.

*Scott Nathan of Boston-based hedge fund Baupost gave $73,050, all to Democratic causes, including a maximum gift of $4,800 to Alan Khazei, who ran unsuccessfully to fill the Senate seat vacated by the late Ted Kennedy.

*Eliott Associates' Paul Singer, who at the height of the financial meltdown in 2008 held a GOP fundraiser in his Manhattan apartment that was attended by then President Bush, gave $70,000 to Republicans in the past year. He donated $30,400, the maximum allowable, to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

*Cliff Asness, of AQR Capital, a Greenwich, Connecticut-based quantitative fund, donated $71,600 to Republicans, including $30,400 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In the tiniest of hedges, Asness gave Dodd $490, or around 1 percent of his total of $72,090 in donations during the past year.

*Robert Mercer, also of Renaissance, gave $71,976, of which $69,576 went to the GOP.

*Steve Cohen, one of the best-known hedge fund manager on the planet, gave $68,400, all but $4,800 of which went to Republicans, including Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia and the scandal-embroiled Senator from Nevada, John Ensign.

*Phil Falcone, of Harbinger Capital, seems to be hedging his bets, donating $30,400 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and $10,000 to the Republican Party of Minnesota, Falcone's home state.

One other notable hedge fund manager, John Paulson, who is at the center of charges against banking giant Goldman Sachs, gave money to both political parties. Goldman secretly arranged for Paulson to hand pick securities for a mortgage portfolio with an eye toward loading it with the loans most likely to flop, federal regulators charged last week. Paulson reaped $1 billion in profit while some of Goldman's clients, were left holding the bag. The CRP estimates that Paulson made $213,000 in political donations over the past decade, 60 percent of which went to Republicans.

During this past election cycle, a little more than 12 months, hedge fund managers contributed $1.9 million to Democrats and $1.2 million to Republicans.

Where's Our Cash?

Earlier this month reports surfaced that Republican leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, gathered for breakfast in a Manhattan hotel with some folks who wouldn't win a popularity contest these days.

Sen. McConnell's hosts that morning: a contingent from Wall Street, including several prominent hedge fund managers. The senior GOP senator's not-so-subtle message to the room: If you want us to fight financial reform we need your financial support.

A spokeswoman for Sen. McConnell declined to comment on the meeting with Wall Street representatives, but did point out that earlier today McConnell indicated that serious bipartisan discussions on financial reform had resumed.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events