December 21, 2014
Vulture cash greases Senate
Singer financed at least 18 out of 45 Republican seats in Upper House
Paul Singer, the owner of the primary vulture fund litigating against Argentina, is a well-known tycoon who invests millions of US dollars a year on political lobbying and supporting Republican candidates. For example, Singer’s dollars backed the campaigns of at least 18 of the currently sitting 45 conservative senators. However, a financial analysis of US politics has shown that the money linked to other firms involved with the debt restructuring and hedge funds also flows towards to the Democratic Party.
Singer is a standout. So far this year and with three months to go before legislative elections, the businessman has forked over more than seven million dollars through his Elliott Management hedge fund.
The number places him as the primary financier for the conservative US opposition and the eighth-largest overall in US politics (donations for Democrats from unions and civil society lead the rankings). The ranking shows that, behind the vulture investor, funding appears from left and the right, for the Republicans and the Democrats alike from the financial, gun-manufacturing, private health and media sectors.
According to calculations by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), Singer has given financial support to 56 congressmen or senators since 2004 (five of them Democrats) and to several dozen candidates that didn’t make it to Congress, always by way of Elliott Management. On a personal level, Singer appears as the sixth-largest campaign donor for the 2012 presidential elections. His US$745,000 in contributions went exclusively to Mitt Romney, Barack Obama’s defeated challenger.
The primary vulture activist’s dollars go beyond elections. The lobby account, which differs from the campaign financing, is also in the millions and, for the last three years, has had Argentina as its main target. So far in 2014, Singer has spent US$190,000 on three lobbying firms, a legal activity which is in theory regulated by US laws. And from the data it is possible to glean that the peak of Elliott Management’s lobbying was in 2008 with US $650,000 dollars, and that in 2012 the spending reached US$ 475,000. By the same token, Singer’s American Task Force Argentina has poured about US$5.2 million into lobbying activities since 2007.
With what purposes did Singer send his most influential men and women to walk the hallways of Congress, the State Department and the Treasury, among others? Basically, to fence Argentina in on all fronts. From guaranteeing that the timid Wall Street reform pushed through by Barack Obama in 2010 would not affect the holders of defaulted bonds to ensuring multiple declarations of “concern of Congress regarding the Argentine Republic’s willful and repeated disregard for the rule of law in the United States,” and “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Republic of Argentina’s membership in the G20 should be conditioned on its adherence to international norms of economic relations and commitment to the rule of law,” with bills presented by Donald Manzullo (R-Illinois) and Christopher Smith (R-New Jersey). The campaign also extended to an effort to block loans from the Inter-American Development Bank or the World Bank or to prevent a deal with the Paris Club. These details were recorded in the logs established by the lobby law of 1995.
The records also show that Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the great hope of the extremist wing of the Republican party for 2016, received US$117.620 from Singer’s pockets between 2009 and 2014 and more than a million from the financial sector. Simultaneously, Singer has been the primary donor since 2009 for conservative senators Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) and Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), and holds second place in donations to Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), John Boozman (R-Arizona), Dan Coats (R-Indiana), Deb Fischer (R-Nevada), Roger Wicker (R -Mississippi), Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) and Robert Portman (R-Ohio).
The vulture fund is the third-largest donor for Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Dean Heller (R-Nevada); fourth-largest for Mark Kirk (R-Illinois); fifth for Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina); ninth for Bob Corker (R-Tennessee); tenth for John Cornyn (R-Texas); thirteenth for Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky); and sixteenth for Orrin Hatch (R - Utah). All told, more than a third of Republican senators have Singer as one of their primary sponsors.
But the spending by hedge funds on the US political class extends beyond Argentina’s main litigator. In addition to the well-known names from Wall Street, with Goldman Sachs at the forefront, are legal firms that present themselves as consultants with broad areas of expertise.
Lowenstein Sandler, a firm “specialized in creditors’ rights” which participated in one of the phases of the litigation between Argentina and Elliott Management, filled the coffers of Democrat senators Robert Menéndez (D-New Jersey, a strong critic of Latin American governments and the Media Law in Argentina in particular) and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), and congressman Bill Pascrell, same party and state.
There are more donors linked to the holdouts’ claims that have contributed to Democratic bank accounts. Singer’s law firm Dechert LLP, which has been active in Griesa’s courtroom, showed public offices with several hundreds of thousands of dollars until 2008 through lobbying efforts. More recently it has changed tack towards financing both parties’ political campaigns. Democrat Senator Robert Casey and his late colleague Arlen Specter (died in 2012) — both from Pennsylvania — had them as some of their biggest donors.
Furthermore, King & Spalding, a giant law firm which until 2011 counted Paul Clement — former US Solicitor General and one the lawyers hired by Argentina — as one of its employees, is also one of the big players in the financing of political campaigns.