The big hedge funds are betting big on Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacts after speaking at a campaign event at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. September 19, 2016.
Carlos Barria | Reuters

Overnight federal campaign finance filings show that with additional seven-figure contributions from the likes of George Soros, S. Donald Sussman, and Henry Laufer, Hillary Clinton remains by far the favored candidate among hedge-fund managers.

During the August giving period measured by the latest Federal Election Commission filings, Democrat Clinton raised a total of $59.5 million, besting Republican Donald Trump's $41.8 million. And of the money Clinton and super PACs dedicated to her raised, a respectable chunk came from individuals in the hedge-fund industry: $2 million from Paloma Partners founder Sussman, $2.5 million from Soros, and $1 million from Renaissance Technologies director Laufer.

Trump, by contrast, took in no substantial new sums from hedge-fund managers, according to an early review of the records — which sometimes reflect omissions due to technical errors and, in any case, won't be complete until quarterly filers weigh in next month.

August's hedge-fund contributions typify an election cycle in which industry donors have consistently leaned toward Clinton, despite Wall Street's historic preference for more conservative candidates. Year to date, Clinton and groups supporting her have taken in nearly $33 million in donations from individuals at hedge funds and private-equity firms, according to data sorted by the Center for Responsive Politics through Sept. 12, compared with the relatively paltry $188,000 collected from that contingent by Trump.

"I think one thing that's important this year is the policy differences that [Trump has] with these donors," Anthony Corrado, a government professor and campaign-finance specialist at Colby College, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "A Republican candidate who has raised concerns about free trade and has suggested some protectionist policies and has advocated for some government spending isn't in accord with their own political views."

Given that some of the GOP's big hedge-fund and other corporate donors supported Trump's challengers during the primaries, Corrado said it's not surprising that they're sitting out the general election.

Among Clinton's most devoted backers, Sussman, who has given $13 million to Clinton's Priorities USA PAC, according to data from the FEC and tallies from the Center for Responsive Politics, has emerged as perhaps the biggest. But Soros, the hedge-fund manager and philanthropist, has been aggressive too, giving $9.5 million to date to the Priorities PAC, plus an additional $1 million to American Bridge 21st Century, a PAC opposing Trump, according to FEC records. Overall, Soros reportedly expects to give a total of $25 million to Clinton and other Democratic causes during this cycle.

Spokespeople for Sussman, Soros, and Laufer declined to comment for this article.

At the same time, some powerful hedge-fund industry figures, including Renaissance Technologies co-chief Robert Mercer, fund manager and activist Carl Icahn, Paulson & Co. hedge-fund founder John Paulson and Trian Partners hedge fund CEO Nelson Peltz, have contributed money to Trump's efforts. But with the exception of Mercer, who gave $2 million to a pro-Trump super PAC in July, their checks have been relatively small.

Paulson, who co-hosted a Trump fundraiser in late June, has given $250,000. Icahn, who has been outspoken on Trump's behalf, has given $50,000, and Peltz — whose involvement hasn't been reported before — has given $50,000. An early read of the August FEC filings suggests that none of those donors gave additional money last month.

A spokeswoman for Peltz said he won't comment on the presidential race, but noted that he's given money to the Democratic National Committee this cycle as well as to Republican causes. Mercer and Icahn haven't returned calls for comment on their giving.