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Donald Trump is right: Paying politicians pays

The U.S. Capitol building
Joshua Roberts | Reuters
The U.S. Capitol building

Donald Trump has generated headlines by contrasting himself with the other Republican contenders as the only one who had paid a politician for political favors.

"As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do," Trump told The Wall Street Journal. "As a businessman, I need that."

Maybe Trump is right: Perhaps paying politicians is the best way to generate returns. That's a lesson from investment research firm Strategas, which maintains a fund that has outperformed the S&P 500 for almost two decades. Developed in the wake of the financial crisis, its so-called "Real-Time Lobbying Index" is meant to capitalize on the increased regulation of the financial system. The thinking is that as politicians have more oversight of the markets, they could be in a position to help companies that had been generous.

Disgraced firm Enron was a huge proponent of this approach, paying millions to push back against regulation.

The makeup of Strategas' Real-Time Lobbying Index is proprietary, and the firm's managing partner, Jason Trennert, declined to comment for this story. So we can only guess at the makeup of the Index—which could be a major shelter from the storm if the Fed raises rates this year and the markets react strongly. Here's our best educated guess for what companies might be in there.

The index is updated quarterly, as company earnings and updated lobbying numbers are announced, according to previous reports. And it's made up of the top 50 companies in terms of lobbying spending. Of course, looking at the gross spending would just give you a rundown of the country's biggest companies—General Electric, NBCUniversal parent Comcast and AT&T spent the most on lobbying since 2009, according to figures from the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). The lobbying figures are normalized as a percentage of the company's total assets.

The lobbying index assumes a small company that bets big on a lobbying campaign will benefit in the market. Indeed, a number of academic studies have shown that lobbying has a significant positive effect on the stock price of companies. A 2010 study found that "portfolios of firms with the highest lobbying intensities significantly outperform their benchmarks in the three years following portfolio formation."

Here are some of the companies that could be on Strategas' index, based on a Big Crunch analysis of 2015 lobbying records from the CRP and total assets as reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission in the company's most recent annual filing.

It's important to note that these stocks aren't definitely on the list. Strategas keeps the constituents private and close to the chest. But these are a few companies—some of them small players in the larger scheme—who have devoted a portion of their resources to push for their own improvements and (if Strategas's formula continues to be correct) could be in line for some major alpha in the coming months.

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Of course, correlation is not the same as causation: It's possible these stocks are doing well despite their government connections.

Jeb Bush has said that during his time as governor of Florida he was strongly resistant to lobbying efforts from Trump. The two sparred in the second GOP debate Wednesday night over Trump's alleged lobbying for casino gambling in Florida.

"You wanted it and you didn't get it because I was opposed to casino gambling before, during and after," Bush said in one of the memorable tit-for-tats. "I'm not going to be bought by anybody."

"I promise if I wanted it, I would have gotten it," Trump responded.

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBC Universal, the parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.