LI's James Simons biggest donor to Democratic super PACs

James Simons addresses a gathering at the new

James Simons addresses a gathering at the new Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at the Stony Brook University. The building was started by a gift from the James and Marilyn Simons Foundation. (Oct. 26, 2010) (Credit: John Dunn)

James Simons, the founder of hedge fund Renaissance Technologies and a former Stony Brook University professor, has contributed $4 million to Democratic super PACs during the 2012 donation cycle, according to the website OpenSecrets.org.

The figure makes Simons, who lives in Setauket, the largest individual donor to Democratic super PACs in the nation. OpenSecrets.org uses Federal Election Commission data.

Simons, who is the richest man on Long Island with a net worth estimated by Forbes at about $11 billion, has been active in Democratic causes in the past. He hosted a fundraiser for President Barack Obama during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., earlier this month.

Among Simons' super PAC donations: $2 million to Priorities USA Action, and $500,000 to House Majority PAC. He has also donated $1.5 million to Majority PAC; in March, Newsday reported that Simons donated $500,000 to the group, which works to preserve the Democratic majority in the Senate.

On Long Island, Simons is a well-known philanthropist. Last year, he donated $150 million to Stony Brook University, the largest donation the school has ever received.

Simons, the former chairman of the Stony Brook math department and a onetime code breaker, founded East Setauket-based Renaissance Technologies in 1982. The firm is one of the most successful hedge funds in the world, utilizing complex formulas and algorithms to profit from trading. The fund is known for only hiring those with advanced degrees in math and science. According to Renaissance's website, the firm manages more than $15 billion and employs 275 people. Simons retired from it in 2010 but remains its nonexecutive chairman.

Simons' protege and co-director at RenTech, Robert Mercer, is also a prominent super PAC donor -- to conservative causes. According to OpenSecrets.org, Mercer -- who lives in St. James -- is the fifth-largest donor to conservative super PACs, having donated $3.5 million in 2012.

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