politics

Private Equity, Hedge Funds Accounted for Over $625 Million in Political Spending During 2020 Campaign, Study Says

Brendan McDermid | Reuters
  • Private equity and hedge funds accounted for over $625 million in political spending during the runup to the 2020 election, with the lion's share going to campaign contributions, according to new research.
  • It was the most this segment of the financial industry spent on lobbying and campaign contributions in a two-year campaign cycle, according to the study, from Americans for Financial Reform.
  • About $547 million of the total went to campaign contributions. The rest went to lobbying.

Private equity and hedge funds accounted for over $625 million in political spending during the cycle leading up to the 2020 election, with the lion's share going to campaign contributions, according to new research.

It was the most this segment of the financial industry spent on lobbying and campaign contributions in a two-year election cycle, according to a study from Americans for Financial Reform that was first reviewed by CNBC. During the 2015-16 cycle, the amount was just over $500 million, the organization said.

The study doesn't include a breakdown of party affiliation or which candidates received the most money. AFR told CNBC that it hopes to craft that data set.

Democrats in Congress are aiming to ramp up regulations on these sectors. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was among a group of Democratic lawmakers who recently reintroduced the Stop Wall Street Looting Act, which seeks to end the carried interest loophole that private equity firms have taken advantage of for years. The legislation also takes aim at firms' transparency regarding fees and returns, among other information.

AFR describes itself as a nonpartisan coalition with over 200 members, including the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, the Color of Change and Common Cause. With this study, the group is looking to shed light on the influence wielded by what it calls "powerful Wall Street titans."

"Whether it is preserving favored tax loopholes or forestalling more comprehensive reform, private fund executives spend on politics for the purpose of getting richer at the expense of everyone else," Ricardo Valadez, private equity campaign manager at AFR, said in a statement provided to CNBC.

The study tallied the total spent on campaign contributions and lobbying during the 2020 cycle from both individuals and political action committees linked to various funds. The largest chunk, about $547 million, went to contributions for candidates running for federal office, according to the study.

The rest, more than $78 million, went to lobbying. Private equity spent $70 million of that, and hedge funds spent about $8.5 million, the research shows.

Spending was more evenly split when it came to campaign contributions. More than $262 million came from those in the private equity sector, while over $285 million came from the hedge fund world.

The organization previously provided CNBC with research showing that the larger Wall Street community, including banks and allied trade associations, invested $2.9 billion into political initiatives during the last election.

Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that people in the investment and securities industry combined gave more than $74 million to back President Joe Biden's 2020 run for president, a much larger sum than what Donald Trump raised from Wall Street.

Donors at Citadel, who spent $67 million, at Blackstone, $43 million, and at Susquehanna International, $30 million, accounted for the biggest spending on contributions to federal campaigns last cycle, AFR said.

The top spenders on lobbying last cycle included Cerberus Capital, Apollo Global and the Carlyle Group, the organization said.

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