This year’s election battle, amped up on super PAC funds, has become an $11 million proxy war of sorts between the billionaire founder of an East Sautuket hedge fund and his handpicked multi-millionaire successor.
James Simons, the founder of the $15 billion Renaissance Technologies hedge fund, and Robert Mercer, who now heads the hedge fund as co-chief executive officer, are on opposite sides in the election from the presidential race on down.
But it’s more than a mere interoffice rivalry. They are two of the biggest campaign donors not only on Long Island and in New York state, but in the entire country, according to listings of top donors.
Simons, who Forbes says is worth $11 billion, has contributed $7.5 million to super PACs supporting President Barack Obama and to Democrats running for the House and Senate, records show.
The 72-year-old philanthropist and current CEO of Euclidean Capital is tied for biggest donor, with $3.5 million, to Obama’s super PAC Priorities USA, and the biggest single donor, with $3 million, to Majority PAC, a super PAC helping Democrats in their attempt retain Senate control, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
But Mercer, while not a billionaire, is spreading around big bucks himself, and is the seventh largest donor to conservative super PACs, according to the center.
He has given $3.8 million to super PACs backing GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney and Republicans campaigning for House and Senate seats, including longshot GOP and Conservative Party candidate Wendy Long in New York.
The proxy war even comes down to their own backyard on the East End of Long Island, where Simons is backing incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Mercer is for Republican Randy Altschuler, a St. James businessman.
Simons and Mercer each has given the maximum $5,000 to their favored candidate, but the super PACs they’ve funded have done more, much more.
The House Majority PAC, to which Simons gave $1 million, has run about $850,000 worth of ads attacking Altschuler.
And a super PAC called Prosperity First, which got its biggest donation — $750,000 — from Mercer, has run about $1 million in ads against Bishop.