News Column

Investor in Argentina flap is power donor

August 1, 2014

By Fredreka Schouten, and Christopher Schnaars, USA TODAY

Paul Singer, the hedge fund billionaire whose demands helped drive Argentina to its second debt default in 13 years, has emerged as one of the biggest players on this nation's political stage before November's elections, a USA TODAY analysis of campaign records shows.

Singer, the billionaire founder of Elliott Management, has pumped more than $5million into the bank accounts of super PACs, Republican congressional candidates and party committees since Jan. 1, 2013.

The giving has landed Singer membership in an exclusive club of midterm mega-donors. In all, four individuals have given at least $5million.

Singer's aides did not immediately respond to questions about his recent political activity.

The biggest spender by far is another billionaire hedge fund founder, Democrat Tom Steyer, who has invested more than $20.3million to help elect candidates who agree with his positions on climate change.

The political parties are waging an expensive fight for control of the Senate, where Republicans need to net six seats in November to capture the majority and dictate the agenda on Capitol Hill during the last two years of President Obama's tenure.

Steyer says he is a counterbalance to Republican tax-exempt groups that are active in elections but don't disclose their spending or donors.

"Outside money is having a dispositive role in any kind of close campaign," said Chris Lehane, a Steyer adviser. "It's really critical for Democrats to know that there's going to be a force out there … that's willing to stand up against the enormous amount of money coming from the other side."

The other members of the $5million club:

•Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has donated nearly $9.5million to an array of organizations and candidates, including his gun control group and Senate Majority, a super PAC aiding Democrats' efforts to retain their hold on the chamber.

Bloomberg, an independent, also contributed a combined $500,000 to super PACs that helped two Republican incumbents, Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, withstand Tea Party challenges.

•Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner donated more than $5.7million, the majority of which went to the Senate Majority super PAC.

Singer is the only mega-donor focused largely on helping Republicans.

More than half of Singer's money flowed to two super PACs active in this year's Senate races: American Crossroads, tied to GOP strategist Karl Rove, and Ending Spending Action, founded by TD Ameritrade founder J. Joe Ricketts.

Singer's biggest checks have gone to American Unity, part of a gay-rights coalition.

Singer has pursued Argentina in the courts and on Capitol Hill, stemming from the country's debt default in 2001.

Elliott Management and American Task Force for Argentina, a coalition tied to Singer, have spent $920,000 in federal lobbying this year.

NML Capital, a subsidiary of Singer's hedge fund, won major victories at the Supreme Court in June when the justices ruled that NML and other holdout creditors who refused to take about 25 cents on the dollar for their bonds had the right to seek Argentina's assets around the world.

The high court refused to take up Argentina's appeal of court rulings in New York that held the country must make payments on the defaulted bonds to the holdouts. The hedge fund is owed more than $1.5billion.

For more stories on investments and markets, please see HispanicBusiness' Finance Channel

Source: USA Today

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