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LI investor is 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 donated at least $2 million this year to Priorities USA, a super PAC that is supporting President Barack Obama, according to data from OpenSecrets.org.

The figure makes Simons, who lives in East Setauket, the largest individual donor to Democratic super PACs in the nation.

Simons, who is the richest man on Long Island and worth about $11 billion, has been active in Democratic causes in the past. He hosted a fundraiser for Obama during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. earlier this month. In March, Newsday reported that Simons donated $500,000 to Majority PAC, a group that 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 -- where he worked as a math professor -- the largest donation the school has ever received.

A mathematician and former code breaker, Simons founded 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. Simons retired from RenTech in 2010 but remains its nonexecutive chairman.

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