Tuesday, 28 June 2016
Last updated 9 min ago
Sep 27 2012 | 11:57am ET
While many of his peers have switched sides, one hedge fund billionaire is keeping faith with President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party—and in a big way.
Renaissance Technologies founder James Simons has taken advantage of a 2010 Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited donations to so-called Super PACs, one of just a few Democratic supporters to fully embrace the controversial vehicles. The retired former math professor has donated at least $4 million to the PACs, making him the biggest giver to Democratic Super PACs in the country.
Gifts like Simons'—at least $2 million to Priorities USA Action, which backs the president, and $2 million more to two other PACs backing Congressional Democrats—have helped Democrats close what was expected to be a huge fundraising gap between them and the Republicans. The latter still have a big lead, but many Democratic donors, previously loathe to donate to groups whose very existence they oppose, seem to be becoming more pragmatic with the election just six weeks away.
In addition to his monetary contribution, Simons is also serving as a volunteer fundraiser for the Super PACs, and hosted prospective donors at an event during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
"The fact is that I am not seeking any publicity in this matter," Simons told The New York Times. "The donations can speak for themselves."
Meanwhile, one of Simons' hand-picked successors is trying to blunt the impact of Simons' billions. Robert Mercer, who heads RenTech alongside Peter Brown, like his boss a Democrat, has given more than $1 million to pro-Mitt Romney groups. And he's also trying to ensure that RenTech's hometown of East Setauket, N.Y., has a G.O.P. congressman with huge donations to the candidate seeking to oust Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) from the eastern Long Island seat.
Mercer has given $500,000 to a Super PAC backing Randy Altschuler, the Republican candidate. That's the overwhelming majority of the total amount raised by Prosperity First. New York's First Congressional District is seen as competitive; Bishop beat Altschuler by fewer than 600 votes four years ago, and Obama carried the district with only 52% of the vote, less than the nearly 53% he won nationally and the nearly 63% he won in New York as a whole.