c.2013 New York Times News Service
c.2013 New York Times News Service
NEW YORK — Hedge fund titans are making a $170,336 bet that Christine C. Quinn is the best candidate to run New York.
Quinn, a Democrat and the City Council speaker, has received that amount in donations from the hedge fund industry. Paltry though the sum seems, it is more than twice the amount received by the next closest recipient in the mayoral race, Joseph J. Lhota, a Republican, according to records compiled by the public affairs lobbying organization Common Cause.
Political contributions to the 2013 mayoral candidates are minuscule in comparison to the sums they invest in financial markets, largely because New York law caps individual contributions to mayoral candidates at $4,950. The New York Campaign Finance Board records for 2013 are notable for their paucity of political contributions from hedge fund managers. Some of the industry’s biggest personalities are missing from the donors’ list altogether, while a few have donated amounts as small as $100.
The loudest and boldest of hedge funds have been the quietest in this election.
Consider William A. Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management, who resigned from the board of J.C. Penney two weeks ago after a brawl with other board members and just sold his entire stake in the company. Ackman is a dominant figure in financial headlines and has made a public bet against Herbalife, the nutritional supplement company that he contends is a pyramid scheme.
Ackman has made no donations to any current mayoral candidate, and he declined to comment.
James S. Chanos, founder of Kynikos Associates, and John Paulson of Paulson & Co., have also not yet donated and declined to comment on whether they planned to make any contributions.
George Soros, chairman of Soros Fund Management, publicly announced his support for Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, several weeks ago. Although there is no record of a campaign contribution, a spokesman said Soros had donated $2,000 to de Blasio’s campaign and “will give again” for an expected runoff after the primaries.
The top campaign givers, on the other hand, have thrown all their resources into backing Democratic candidates.
Orin S. Kramer, the founder of Boston Provident, tops this list, having given $10,700 of his own money to three of the party’s candidates: Quinn, William C. Thompson Jr. and John C. Liu. Kramer, who raised more than $2 million for President Barack Obama during the 2012 presidential election, has donated $4,950 each to Quinn and Thompson and $800 to Liu, who is the New York comptroller.
This month, the city’s Campaign Finance Board voted to withhold up to $3.5 million in matching public money to Liu’s political campaign, citing his “campaign’s inability to demonstrate it is in compliance with the law” after two of his former associates were convicted of participating in an illegal fundraising scheme.
Kramer has also made contributions to candidates running for other offices in the election.
John Petry of Sessa Capital has donated $15,425. He has backed Quinn and Anthony Weiner, before the latest revelations about Weiner’s habit of sending sexual photographs and messages to women online. In July, Petry donated $1,000 each to Quinn and to Weiner. He later contributed an additional $1,500 to Weiner’s campaign. The rest of his contributions went to candidates running for the City Council, public advocate and borough president.
Among the donors to Republican candidates is Carl C. Icahn.
An activist investor, Icahn announced this month that he had accumulated a large stake in Apple and urged its chief executive to return more money to investors through a larger share buyback. He has made a donation of the maximum $4,950 to Lhota, who has received a total of $47,625 from hedge funds.
The normally outspoken Icahn could not be reached to comment about his donation.
Daniel S. Loeb of Third Point Capital, once a strong supporter of Obama who supported Mitt Romney in the previous presidential election, has donated $2,475 to Quinn’s campaign. He also donated $4,500 to Democrat Scott M. Stringer’s campaign for New York comptroller.
Total industry contributions so far have added up to $500,000. This number stands in stark contrast to the amounts hedge funds commit to New York state elections: $7.1 million in 2010, when Andrew Cuomo was elected governor, for example. Hedge funds are now the second-biggest contributors to state campaigns after the real estate industry, according to a 2012 report by Common Cause.
“People who are donating with large money at the state level are stymied at the local level,” said Susan Lerner, the director of the New York branch of Common Cause. This ensures small donors have a say, she added.
“When you think about what hedge fund managers are doing — they are a very elite and effective form of gambler and they are used to using their money to manipulate markets and reap outside benefits,” Lerner said.
Chanos responded by challenging Lerner to try to reap outsize benefits.
“It’s a pretty tough game,” he said.
“The limits are a big aspect to it, and I think people would give more if the limits were higher,” he said. “At the federal and state level, we are constantly being called” about donations, he said. No one calls for contributions at the city level, he added.
“It’s hard to think how any hedge fund would directly benefit from city politics,” Chanos said.