Secretive money manager Robert Mercer, who has donated roughly $19 million to conservative causes during this election cycle, has emerged as a central figure in the Donald Trump presidential campaign recently.
But the company where he is co-chief executive, Renaissance Technologies, may be an even bigger player in the current political topography.
So far this cycle, individuals affiliated with Renaissance have donated about $34 million either to candidates running for office or groups supporting them, according to records sorted by the Center for Responsive Politics. And while Mercer, who's so far given the most, has now thrown his support behind Trump (a move made after his preferred candidate, Ted Cruz, dropped out), Chairman James Simons and director Henry Laufer, who together have given nearly $14 million to Hillary Clinton and other liberal causes, are a powerful counterweight.
In hedge fund speak, that means that Renaissance could be approaching market neutrality.
Renaissance's overall bounty is nearly twice what's been given by affiliates of Paloma Partners, the Greenwich, Connecticut-hedge fund founded by one of Clinton's biggest supporters, and nearly three times what affiliates of Elliott Management — whose founder, Paul Singer, is known for his political activism — have given.
(It's worth noting that because some political campaigns and groups file their contribution information with the Federal Election Commission on quarterly, rather than monthly, bases, these figures are dated and, quite possibly, low. CNBC tallied the overall numbers using CRP's groupings of FEC filings as a starting point, and then added more recent and relevant individual contributions to the mix.)
Renaissance doesn't host political events at its offices, according to someone familiar with the matter, and the corporation itself doesn't give money to campaigns. But as a theoretical exercise, if each of its 290 employees made political donations – which they don't – the average spend would be about $118,000 per person. Multiple employees, including Mercer, who gave money to political causes and were contacted for this article either didn't respond to emails or phone messages or declined, through a spokesman, to comment.