By John McCrank
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street and investment firm leaders have been prominent in the list of top individual donors ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, with influential megadonors growing as a percentage of overall contributions, according to OpenSecrets.
Most of top donors this cycle are the same people who have topped political contribution lists in past years, with a few exceptions, including cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, who has emerged as a major Democrat supporter, and his FTX co-CEO, Ryan Salame, who backs Republicans, the data show.
Bankman-Fried on Tuesday announced he would sell FTX's non-U.S. unit to crypto giant Binance, which said it would help cover a "liquidity crunch" at the rival exchange, marking an abrupt change in fortune for Bankman-Fried.
Billionaires made up 15% of all federal political itemized donations from Jan. 1, 2021 to Sept. 30, up from 11% in the 2020 election cycle, said Sarah Bryner, director of research and strategy at OpenSecrets, a non-profit organization that tracks campaign finance.
Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, which struck down limits on political contributions by corporations or unions, political contributions of billionaires made up around 3% of overall political contributions, she said.
Here are some of the Wall Street and investment billionaires who make up the top 25-largest political donors this election cycle:
* Financier George Soros was the top individual donor, spending more than $128 million to support Democratic campaigns according to OpenSecrets. A spokesperson for Soros said $125 million went to a super PAC set up as a contributions vehicle meant to last over several cycles. Between that and other giving he has contributed around $35 million to campaigns and candidates this cycle, meaning 2021 to the present.
* Citadel LLC founder Ken Griffin was the third-biggest donor as of Sept. 30, spending more than $68 million to help Republican efforts, according to OpenSecrets. Griffin said in a statement: "I hope that my political engagement will help to protect the American Dream. I proudly support the men and women willing to run for elected office who are committed to improving K-12 and college education, focused on protecting individual rights, and prioritizing public safety and national defense. Tragically, we have all seen majestic cities such as Chicago and San Francisco devastated by progressive leftist policies. On Halloween, three children – and at least 11 adults – were senselessly shot in Chicago. In a few days, I believe American voters will say we’ve suffered enough from these misguided policies."
* Susquehanna International Group founder Jeffrey Yass, and Janine Yass, were the fourth spot on the list, spending more than $44 million on Republican causes, according to OpenSecrets. A representative declined comment.
* Crypto-billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried of FTX was the sixth-largest donor, at $39.8 million with the vast majority going to help Democrats. FTX did not respond to a request for comment.
* Blackstone Group founder Stephen Schwarzman sat at No. 8 on the list, spending $35.5 million to support Republicans. Blackstone did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
* FTX co-CEO Ryan Salame was 14th, spending $23.6 million with the majority to help Republicans. FTX did not respond to a request for comment on the donation.
* Elliott Management founder Paul Singer spent $19.7 million to support Republicans, making him the 15th-largest donor. Elliot did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
* Hedge fund manager Stephen Mandel, of Lone Pine Capital, along with his wife Susan Mandel, were 17th, spending $17.7 million, mostly on supporting Democrats. Lone Pine declined comment.
* Renaissance Technologies founder Jim Simons, together with Marilyn Simons, were the 20th-largest donors, spending nearly $16 million to help Democrats. Simons declined to comment via a representative.
(Reporting by John McCrank; additional reporting by Megan Davies and Carolina Mandl; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)