Hedgies Vote Obama With Their Wallets

Jul 14 2008 | 11:47am ET

Hedge fund managers and employees played a major role in funding the Democrats’ campaign to regain Congress two years ago, and in the early going of this year’s presidential campaign, their party preference has not changed. 

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the presumed Democratic nominee for President, has raked in more than twice as much in contributions from hedge fund employees, according to Reuters and the Center for Responsive Politics. Obama has netted $822,375 from hedge funds, while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the presumptive Republican nominee, has garnered just $348,300.

Both figures, however, are relative drops in the overall campaign bucket. Obama has raised an eye-popping $287 million through May, while McCain has raised almost $120 million.

Unsurprisingly, Obama is popular on his home turf. Chicago-based hedge fund giant Citadel Investment Group’s employees have given $185,300 to Obama and just $11,400 to McCain. But mere geography does not explain Obama’s appeal to the industry.

New York-based Taconic Capital Advisors employees have donated $42,650 to Obama and $500 to McCain. Across town, people cashing paychecks from D.E. Shaw & Co. are slightly more partisan: They have given $41,915 to Obama, but not one thin dime to McCain.

McCain certainly has his backers in the hedge fund world, notably Bridgewater Associates, whose employees have given his campaign almost $75,000 (while giving less than $10,000 to Obama), Moore Capital Management, accounting for $42,600 (and $22,950 for the Illinois senator), and Highbridge Capital Management, whose employees are split on $15,900 to McCain and $14,800 to Obama. But McCain may be starting to make up the difference: He outraised Obama among hedge fund employees in May by almost three-to-one.

Among other top-10 hedge funds, the preference for Obama is also clear. Barclays Global Investors’ employees have donated $19,900 to Obama to just $2,550 for McCain, while Renaissance Technologies’ employees have given $16,250 and $2,300, respectively. Och-Ziff Capital Management’s employees have given $7,650 to Obama and nothing to McCain.

Reuters reports that the fundraising advantage Obama enjoys among hedgies is unusual, given Wall Street’s usual preference for Republicans. According to CRP, 60.1% of the $8.3 million in contributions from hedge fund and private equity employees has gone to Democrats (in fact, McCain is a distant fifth among such donors, behind such also-rans as Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), and just barely edges out former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, also a Republican). But the finance, insurance and real estate industries as a whole have trended Democratic this cycle, with 53.3% of their donations going to Democratic candidates.

Even the Wall Street royalty at Goldman Sachs, whose former CEOs include the Democratic governor of New Jersey, Jon Corzine, and the Bush administration’s current Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, are ga-ga over Obama, donating some $421,452 to his campaign while giving just $153,095 to McCain.

According to Reuters, the preference of hedge fund managers for Obama specifically and Democrats generally reflect their background—young and highly-educated—as well as their concerns about health care and other domestic issues outweighing their fears of higher taxes and greater regulation.

“My goal is not to pay less taxes,” Pershing Square Capital Management chief William Ackman told Reuters. “My goal is to elect an incredibly smart and capable guy.”


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