Trump not getting the big bucks from hedge funds

Election hedge fund money
Election hedge fund money

Lofty predictions for sizable hedge fund industry support for the Donald Trump presidential campaign have fallen short, as public filings indicated a relatively modest showing from that group for July.

Filings made with the Federal Election Commission suggest that the Trump effort took in little more than $2 million in hedge fund money last month — and that the bulk of it came largely from a single donor, Renaissance Technologies co-chief Robert Mercer.

Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign donations and spending, said that while the absolute amounts of money hedge funds are giving to Trump may appear low, the trend for him is positive. "We can see that it has gone from a pittance — a mere thousands of dollars — to millions, but it's impossible for us to say at this point what the final figure is for July," said Krumholz. "It's possible we'll see, if not a sea change, then a big leap forward for Trump."

Spokespeople for the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

The pro-Trump Great America PAC, the pro-Hillary Clinton Priorities USA PAC and other monthly filers were supposed to log their latest fundraising and spending records no later than midnight on Sunday morning. [However, even by Monday afternoon, the picture remained incomplete: other important filers, including the Trump Victory PAC, are on a quarterly schedule, and because some entities may have made paper filings not yet updated online, additional details have yet to surface.]

In an interview with Fortune a few weeks ago, Anthony Scaramucci, the fund-of-funds manager who is also an outspoken Trump supporter, predicted that some 20 percent of the estimated $70 million the Trump campaign had taken in in July was from hedge funds — a haul that would have amounted to about $14 million.

Scaramucci himself recently donated $100,000 to the PAC Trump Victory and at least an additional $90,200 to the Republican National Committee, as well as to the Trump campaign and Paul Ryan's congressional campaign, among other entities, according to FEC records. He doesn't appear to have given additional donations in July, and declined to elaborate on his comments to Fortune.

But the participation of other hedge fund executives has been muted.

Donald Trump
Gary Cameron | Reuters

Billionaire fund manager and Trump backer Carl Icahn appears to have given just $50,000 to the Trump effort — the cost of a ticket to a Manhattan fundraiser at the restaurant Le Cirque in late June. Trump at one point invited Icahn to become Treasury secretary in his potential administration, an offer Icahn jokingly accepted via Twitter, only to have both men later brush off the idea.

Paulson & Co. founder John Paulson, another hedge fund manager who has become an economic advisor to Trump, was co-host of the event, and he reportedly gave $250,000 to attend along with his wife.

An assistant to Icahn said he was traveling Monday and couldn't immediately be reached for comment, and a spokeswoman for Paulson, whose reported June donation, made out to Trump Victory, couldn't immediately be verified, had no comment.

After initially supporting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for president, Robert Mercer, the mathematician and conservative activist who helps run Renaissance, has become highly engaged with the Trump campaign this summer, according to people who know him.

He and his daughter Rebekah Mercer, who helped produce a documentary about the Clinton family's money, were reportedly influential in the Trump campaign's latest shake-up, which resulted in the installation of Breitbart News executive chairman Steve Bannon as CEO.

In July, the father donated $2 million to Make America Number 1, a PAC reportedly dedicated to undermining Clinton for president, presumably by promoting Trump. Mercer has not responded to messages left at Renaissance's East Setauket, New York, offices, and a spokesman for him has declined to comment.

Elsewhere in the weekend's FEC reports, other hedge fund industry names also appeared.

Robert Bishop, CEO of New Canaan, Connecticut-based Impala Asset Management, donated $75,000 to the Great America PAC, which supports Trump. Vincent Intrieri, an official at Icahn's hedge fund company, gave $200, for a total of $1,050 to the PAC this year. Bishop declined through an assistant to comment, and Intrieri did not respond to a request for comment.

By contrast, Clinton continues to draw big money from the hedge fund community, which according to a Center for Responsive Politics tally had given Clinton and her PACs more than $25 million through the first half of this year (the corresponding figure for Trump was $2,054, a figure that clearly doesn't include the Le Cirque event contributions).

Donald Sussman, founder of the Greenwich hedge fund Paloma Partners, gave $3 million, bringing his total for this year to $8.5 million to the Priorities PAC alone. George Soros, who has donated some $25 million to Clinton overall this election cycle, according to someone familiar with the matter, gave the Priorities PAC an additional $35,308.50. Spokesmen for Sussman and Soros declined to comment specifically on the July contributions.

Correction: The public filings were made with the Federal Election Commission. An earlier version misstated the name.