Hedge fund honcho seeks to oust congressman

Obama signs the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. Mercer, the primary donor to Prosperity First, opposes the bill, but his congressman supports it.

Super PAC Prosperity First, which is bankrolled by wealthy hedge fund CEO Robert Mercer, is attempting to oust Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in New York’s 1st Congressional District. In less than a week, the super PAC has spent more than $294,000 on ads.

Prosperity First reported its first buy to the tune of $273,000 on Friday, followed by an additional $21,000 on Monday, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

The ads support Randy Altschuler, a wealthy Republican businessman running for Congress against Bishop in Mercer’s home district of eastern Long Island.

Altschuler and Bishop first went head-to-head in 2010 in one of the tightest races in the country. Both campaigns challenged the results, and three weeks after the election, just 16 votes separated the candidates, The Hill reported. Eventually, Altschuler, who funded his own campaign, conceded. The final tally gave Bishop a margin of victory of less than 600 votes in a race where about 200,000 votes were cast.

New York’s 1st District is considered a tossup again this year, but Bishop may receive a bump from increased Democratic turnout for the presidential election.

Super donor Mercer, co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies Corp., gave Prosperity First $500,000 in April. This accounts for nearly 80 percent of the $635,500 it reported raising through June, according to the group's most recent campaign finance filing. Mercer made the contribution three days after Prosperity First was founded.

Altschuler’s position on Wall Street reform aligns with that of Mercer and Renaissance Technologies.

The hedge fund giant lobbied extensively against the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which tightens regulations on hedge funds, among other things. Altschuler opposes the law, and he has called it “flawed" and a “job killer for New York,” local news site Smithtown Matters reported in 2010.

Bishop voted in favor of Dodd-Frank, which is named for its chief congressional sponsors, former Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

Other contributors to Prosperity First include:

  • JL Holdings — $50,000.  Brothers John and Lawrence Rutigliano own this private real estate company based in the Bronx. This appears to be the brothers’ first major political contribution.
  • Sumir Chadha —$25,000. Chadha is the founder of WestBridge Capital, where he specializes in private equity and venture capital investments.
  • Andrew Sabin —$25,000. Sabin owns Sabin Commodities, a privately owned precious metals brokerage firm.
  • HJ Kalikow LLC, owned by Peter Kalikow — $20,000. Kalikow was a top donor toCain Connections, a super PAC that supported conservative businessman Herman Cain's failed presidential bid last year.
  • A1 Suites LLC — $10,000. A1 has a New York address but is registered in Delaware . The state is a popular choice for corporate filers thanks to its low taxes, anonymity of owners and ease of incorporation. The New York address is for an office building home to dozens of businesses.

In other outside spending news:

  • The National Republican Congressional Committee reported spending more than $187,000 on ads opposing Democrats in three House races: David Gill in Illinois’ 13th District, which is held by Republican Rep. Judy Biggert; Gary McDowell in Michigan’s 1st District, which is held by Republican Rep. Dan Benishek; and Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Ky., who is being challenged by Republican attorney Andy Barr.
  • The NRCC’s “This Is Our America” shows historic moments like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream speech” and the moon landing, while adding, “We’re ready for a comeback.” The ad mentions no candidates, but the RNC has dubbed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., America's “Comeback Team.”
  • The Republican National Committee’s ad “We’ve Heard It All Before (2012 DNC Edition)” shows the similarities between President Barack Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention and his 2012 speech last week in Charlotte.
  • Super PAC Planned Parenthood Votes released a new ad saying GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney would “turn back the clock on women’s health.”
  • Obama’s Blunders,” a short web video from conservative nonprofit Americans for Limited Government, opens with clips of Obama tripping and knocking his head, then goes on to talk about the “failed” auto industry bailout, a contention strongly disputed by the Obama administration and backed up by Politifact.
  • A new ad from super PAC Freedom PAC supports Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., who is challenging popular incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat. Notably, the ad uses Mack campaign footage, but this is not considered illegal coordination because the Mack campaign made the footage publicly available online.  
  • New committees: Republicans for a Prosperous America in Washington, D.C., Citizens for a Sustainable North Hawaii in Kapaau, Hawaii, and Media Fund Super PAC in Beachwood, Ohio.

About the author

Rachael Marcus is a reporter with the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit, non-partisan independent investigative news outlet, which contributes campaign finance coverage to Marketplace. For more of their reporting on money and politics go to publicintegrity.org.

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