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REPORT: Timing Of Hedge-Fund Billionaire’s $2 Million Donation to Pro-Loeffler Super PAC Raises Conflict Of Interest Concerns

Ken Griffin’s Massive October Donation Came Just After Company Was Poised For Major Buyout Deal Requiring Approval From New York Stock Exchange, Run By Loeffler’s Husband

Circumstances and Timing Of Finance Mogul’s Political Donations “Illustrate the Haze Of Money, Power, and Influence” Surrounding Loeffler

A new Salon report reveals that Illinois “finance mogul” Ken Griffin donated “big chunks of cash” to a Super PAC supporting Loeffler and bankrolled by her husband, New York Stock Exchange Chairman Jeff Sprecher. Those donations included a massive $2 million contribution just days after news reports that Griffin’s company was poised to make a major buyout that had required the NYSE’s approval.

Further complicating the conflict of interest is the fact that “Loeffler herself sits on a Senate committee that oversees Wall Street and the financial markets.” The circumstances and timing of Griffin’s donations to Loeffler “illustrate the haze of money, power and influence” surrounding the Senate’s wealthiest member. According to one securities law expert, “it’s safe to assume that the donations are being made because Citadel stands to benefit by keeping her in office.”’ Loeffler is already facing growing scrutiny into her numerous stock trading scandals while in office and shady business practices as a former corporate executive.

“Senator Loeffler is a walking conflict of interest who can’t be trusted to put hardworking Georgians ahead of her billionaire friends on Wall Street,” said DSCC spokesperson Shea Necheles. “Time and time again, Loeffler has proven that Kelly is for Kelly and this is just another troubling example of her flagrant political corruption.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Salon: This hedge-fund billionaire is a huge fan of Sen. Kelly Loeffler — but why?

By Roger Sollenberger

Key Points:

  • On Oct. 9, billionaire Ken Griffin, the head of a multinational financial services company, gave $2 million to a super PAC called Georgia United Victory (GUV), which had originally been launched by allies of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp but at the time exclusively supported Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s election campaign.
  • Griffin ranks among the richest people in America, and during the 2020 election cycle he spent at least $57 million to support conservative candidates, most of that on Republicans in tight U.S. Senate campaigns. He donated significant sums to support Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona and Michigan GOP candidate John James, among others. But his $2 million to GUV on Oct. 9 was one of his 10 largest contributions ever, and he had already given the Loeffler-centric PAC $1 million about five weeks earlier.
  • Griffin’s donation to GUV on Oct. 9 also came one day after the Wall Street Journal reported that one of his companies, Citadel Securities — a separate entity from the Citadel hedge fund, which Griffin also runs — had reached an initial agreement to buy one of its competitors, a company called IMC, for a price “in the tens of millions of dollars.”
  • But before that could happen, management at the world’s most famous stock exchange — a central institution in American capitalism since its founding in 1792 — had to approve the deal.
  • As it happens, Kelly Loeffler’s husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is chairman of the New York Stock Exchange — as well as founder and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the company that has owned the exchange since acquiring it in a $10.9 billion deal in 2013. Loeffler herself sits on a Senate committee that oversees Wall Street and the financial markets.
  • The circumstances and timing of the Loeffler donations remain distinctive, and serve to illustrate the haze of money, power and influence that surround the newly-minted Georgia senator, who walked away from an immensely lucrative career as a top executive within her husband’s firm when she entered politics a little less than a year ago. Given Loeffler’s connections, as well as the government oversight she now exercises over those connections, almost every contact she has with her husband’s industry reverberates with potential conflicts of interest.
  • On Nov. 18, the same day that Citadel Securities formally announced its purchase of IMC, with the runoff campaign between Loeffler and Warnock underway, Griffin gave $5,600 to the Senate Georgia Battleground Fund, a PAC established to support both Loeffler and Perdue (who also faces a Jan. 5 runoff). That curious amount may reflect a misunderstanding: A PAC can accept much larger sums, but in this instance Griffin gave the maximum any individual could have donated directly to the two runoff candidates.
  • Sprecher and Griffin were the top two donors to Georgia United Victory, the pro-Loeffler PAC. The third-biggest donor gave $500,000. Again, Griffin was one of the biggest individual donors of the 2020 election cycle, ranking sixth out of all Americans, according to data compiled by OpenSecrets.
  • It’s also true that before the Nov. 3 general election, GUV apparently received contributions from only a few donors. In the four months between the PAC’s July launch and Election Day, Griffin and Sprecher were among only 26 contributors. Griffin’s $3 million was exceeded only by Sprecher’s $10.5 million, with all other GUV donors chipping in a combined total of about $3 million.
  • Otherwise, as mentioned above, major Republican donors mostly stayed away from Loeffler during the “jungle primary.” That wasn’t true of Griffin: Two of his 10 largest donations went to Loeffler.
  • In other words, there are no obvious political or ideological reasons why Ken Griffin would value Kelly Loeffler so much higher than Doug Collins, or why he was evidently so much more invested in her success than were other GOP mega-donors. As noted above, however, Loeffler sits on the Senate committee that conducts oversight of stock trading.
  • “It’s safe to assume that the donations are being made because Citadel stands to benefit by keeping her in office,” Edwards told Salon. 

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