Private equity, hedge funds accounted for over $625 million in 2020 political spending, study says


The Wall Street sign is seen outside The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, February 16, 2021.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

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 the study from Americans for Financial Reform, which 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. Americans for Financial Reform told CNBC that the group hopes to craft that data set.

The findings come as 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. It also takes aim at transparency firms regarding fees and returns, among other information.

Americans for Financial Reform 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, $547 million, went to contributions for candidates running for federal office, according to the study.

The rest, amounting to over $78 million, went to lobbying. Private equity spent much more on lobbying ($70 million) than hedge funds did ($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 those in the investment and securities industry combined to give over $74 million to back President Joe Biden’s 2020 run for president, a much larger sum than what Donald Trump raised from Wall Street.

Broken down by firm, those at Citadel ($67 million), Blackstone ($43 million) and Susquehanna International ($30 million) accounted for the biggest spending on campaign contributions to federal campaigns last cycle, Americans for Financial Reform said.

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

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