A July 29 Wall Street Journal article crediting our data is headlined, “Hedge-Fund Money: $48.5 Million for Hillary Clinton, $19,000 for Donald Trump.” The startling disparity in numbers led other media outlets to cite the piece — as did Trump himself. The article was shared on Facebook over 27,000 times and generated more than 500 comments.
Only problem is, those numbers aren’t correct. Trump had taken in just $2,054 in hedge fund contributions as of June 30. Clinton, along with her supporting super PACs, has received $25.6 million from the hedge fund industry, just a bit more than half the WSJ’s figure.
While the article says the money came from “employees or owners” of hedge funds (later amended to include private equity), nearly all of it came from just four people. Four big donors associated with hedge funds gave $24.6 million of the total — most of which was given to the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA Action, which she does not control (at least not directly).
Clinton’s campaign itself, not counting super PACs, has so far received just $557,619 from individuals who work at hedge funds.
Further down, the WSJ article says that the $48.5 million figure is the sum of contributions to Clinton from seven unspecified “financial firms” that are either hedge funds or “similar private investment funds.” We emailed the reporters on the story to find out which firms they counted.
Three of the firms, Renaissance Technologies, Paloma Partners, and Soros Fund Management — are recognized commonly as “hedge funds.” The WSJ also added in contributions by David E Shaw. Shaw founded the hedge fund D.E. Shaw Group in 1988, though he is no longer involved in the firm’s day-to-day operations and now runs a computational biochemistry research group; OpenSecrets does not place him in the hedge fund category at this point in his career.
And the other three firms used in the WSJ’s calculations aren’t hedge funds at all. The donors at these firms account for $19.9 million of the $48.5 million the story’s headline says was Clinton’s take from hedge funds.
One firm used by the WSJ, Saban Capital Group, focuses on private equity. A representative at Saban Capital told OpenSecrets Blog that her firm is not a hedge fund. A representative at BLS Investments, another firm that the WSJ used to arrive at the $48.5 million sum, said that her firm isn’t a hedge fund either. BLS Investments is a private investment fund run by megadonor Bernard L. Schwartz. The WSJ also tallied donations from people associated with the venture capital and private investment firm Pritzker Group. A Pritzker Group representative said her firm “is not a hedge fund.”
Many have claimed that Clinton is heavily reliant on Wall Street for campaign funds. But, as we’ve reported in the past, these claims are debatable because the vast majority of Clinton’s contributions from the securities & investment industry (our parlance for what many think of as Wall Street) come from a tiny group of liberal donors, not a large number of bankers.
We showed that 86 percent of the Wall Street money flowing into her campaign and super PACs as of May 31 came from just 13 big liberal donors. A few of Clinton’s biggest donors have even expressed support for more regulation and closing the carried interest loophole, which allows some hedge fund managers and private equity partners to pay lower taxes than they would otherwise.
Some point out that the four big hedge fund donors — George Soros, Donald Sussman, James Simons, and Henry Laufer — are as much liberal lions as they are representatives of the industry. All are on our list of megadonors. We cannot divine what motivates any particular contributions; all we can do is identify donors by the industry that employs them.
Still, to say Clinton is bought by Wall Street because of the donations of these individuals — a common theme for Trump — is a little like saying former Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker was bought by Major League Baseball because a Walker super PAC took in $5 million from Joe Ricketts, a stalwart ideological conservative whose family owns the Chicago Cubs.
Trump cited the $48.5 million figure in a stump speech, as well as in a tweet that received about 15,800 retweets and around 34,800 likes. The tweet cited the Center for Responsive Politics as the source of the information.
Fortune Magazine first pointed out the issues with the WSJ story after talking with OpenSecrets Senior Researcher Doug Weber. Fortune noted that hedge funds and private equity firms together have given Clinton and her supporting super PACs $27.6 million, a number obtained here on our website. The corresponding figure for Trump is $18,866.
The makeup of Trump’s donor base is already changing as he begins fundraising in earnest. Anthony Scaramucci, an unofficial advisor to Trump’s campaign, told Fortune that an estimated 20 percent of the $70 million raised in July by the Trumpcampaign came from hedge fund managers and others in the industry.
July donations won’t be reported until later this month, so we can’t corroborate Scaramucci’s claims yet. But if they are true, it will mean that Trump has raised at least $14 million from people at hedge funds. The limit for donations to campaigns is $2,700, which means that for Trump to raise $14 million from individuals in the hedge fund industry, he would have to have the support of many more people at hedge funds than Clinton.
According to our data, Republicans have nabbed the vast majority of money from hedge funds this cycle, though little of it has gone to Trump. Of the $19.5 million given to congressional and presidential campaigns by the employees of hedge funds this year, 65 percent has gone to Republicans. Out of the $97.4 million given by hedge funders to partisan outside groups, 63 percent went to Republican groups.
Although the headline remains uncorrected, a “correction & amplification” appended to the end of the WSJ story says that “The Center for Responsive Politics says hedge funds and private-equity firms have given $27.6 million in support” of Clinton.