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.