Wall Street executives pour millions of dollars into the Republican primary race for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat – where veteran Dr. Mehmet Oz and former Bridgewater boss Dave McCormick lead in the polls – making the primary election one of the most expensive in the 2022 mid-term period. choice.
During the first quarter, dozens of men’s allies and close friends – current and former Wall Street CEOs and executives – host fundraisers, contribute to their campaigns and donate directly to candidates and political action committees that support their bids. according to Federal Election Commission documents, invitations to private fundraisers, and interviews with people close to both men, some of whom asked not to be mentioned in order to speak freely.
The race to replace retiring GOP senator Pat Toomey is a critical race that could help determine the balance of power in the House, which is equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. The Cook Political Report marks the Senate seat as a lottery, and a Real Clear Politics average of polls shows McCormick has an advantage over Oz in the Republican primary.
The competition has drawn support from executives at Goldman Sachs as well as billionaire CEOs at Blackstone Group and Citadel, among others.
More than $ 45 million has so far been spent on television, radio and digital ads in GOP primarily, according to data provided by ad tracker AdImpact. Oz, McCormick and Honor Pennsylvania, a super PAC that supports McCormick, have each spent over $ 11 million on ads in the primary race. American Leadership Action, a similar super PAC that supports Oz, has so far spent just over $ 3 million on advertising in the primary election.
Super PACs are tools for allies to provide external support to federal graduates. Although the campaigns do not control how they spend their money, super PACs can travel and spend an unlimited amount on supporting their favorite nominees.
Both men were incredibly well connected before entering politics. Oz hosted “The Dr. Oz Show” a long and successful television career raised by Oprah Winfrey, while McCormick ran Bridgewater, one of the world’s largest hedge funds. McCormick’s wife, Dina Powell McCormick, is the director of Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs.
With such connections, it has not been difficult for any of the candidates to raise money. Oz’s campaign has raised over $ 13 million so far, with $ 7.5 million in the first quarter that included a nearly $ 6 million loan from Oz. McCormick’s campaign, meanwhile, raised $ 11 million in the first quarter, including a loan of just under $ 7 million from the candidate who officially participated in the race in January.
Executives at Goldman have supported McCormick’s campaign, in which nearly 60 of the company’s executives donate directly to his operation, FEC records show. Goldman’s CEO David Solomon hosted a fundraiser for the candidate in February, while John Rogers, chief of staff and secretary of Goldman’s board, has urged other Goldman executives to donate to the campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.
Solomon personally donated $ 5,800 to McCormick’s campaign in January. Rogers donated $ 50,000 late last year to pro-McCormick Honor Pennsylvania, according to the election protocol. Unlike campaign donations, which are limited to $ 5,800 per month. candidate per election cycle, donors can donate an unlimited amount to super-PACs under campaign funding rules.
Rogers was also among a group of business leaders in January who hosted a fundraiser in New York for McCormick’s campaign, according to a copy of the invitation.
A spokesman for Goldman did not respond to requests for comment.
Mike Novogratz, CEO of Galaxy Digital and a close friend of both McCormicks, told CNBC that he senses that Wall Street support comes from what he says is the belief that the former Bridgewater boss’s policies are more “center right”. Records show he has not yet donated to McCormick’s campaign.
“Wall Street is centered,” Novogratz said as he explained the backing.
Wall Street firms typically back candidates on both sides of the aisle. For example, Goldman’s Political Action Committee and its staff donated a total of $ 1 million to Barack Obama’s campaign when he first ran in the 2008 presidential election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. President Joe Biden saw more than $ 70 million from Wall Street in his fight for the White House.
McCormick is considered a possible ally in Washington for business leaders if he wins the November general election.
“Supporting Dave is an easy call for many business leaders,” Reginald Brown, a partner at law firm Kirkland Ellis, said in an email. Brown donated $ 5,800 to McCormick’s campaign in January, FEC documentation shows. “There’s a strong sense that he does not want to be a loose cannon and is ready to be a statesman in a very challenging world.”
“Dr. Oz is a television personality who served on the president’s fitness council. Not a difficult choice for pragmatic business leaders,” Brown said. Oz sat on former President Donald Trump’s council on sports, nutrition and fitness before Biden dropped him.
Several Wall Street billionaires appear to agree with McCormick.
Ken Griffin, CEO of Chicago-based investment firm Citadel, has so far donated $ 7.5 million to the pro-McCormick super PAC, including $ 2.5 million in March.
Blackstone’s CEO Steve Schwarzman gave the pro-McCormick group $ 500,000 in February, and Paul Singer, founder of hedge fund giant Elliot Management, donated $ 1 million the same month.
Nelson Peltz, co-founder of investment firm Trian Partners, contributed $ 80,000 to the pro-Oz super PAC in the first three months of the year. Billionaire hedge fund founder John Paulson donated $ 5,800 directly to Oz’s campaign.
American Leadership Action, PAC, which exclusively backs Oz’s campaign, has spent over $ 3 million targeting McCormick, according to data from the Party Politics Center for Responsive Politics.
Representatives of Schwarzman, Singer, Peltz and Paulson did not respond to requests for comment.
Griffin said he encouraged McCormick to run.
“When I heard that David was considering running for the Senate, I urged him to do so, as our nation will be in good hands if talented and committed individuals like him are elected to public office,” Griffin said. He pointed to McCormick’s military service in the Gulf War and his record in government, including roles in the trade and finance departments under then-President George W. Bush.
Both McCormick and Oz have close personal relationships with billionaire Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater, who has not donated to any of the campaigns.
Oz also has his own friends on Wall Street and counts Trump among his supporters.
John Mack, the former CEO and chairman of Morgan Stanley, contributed $ 600,000 during the first two months of the year to the pro-Oz super PAC, federal election records show. Mack told CNBC that he supports Oz for a number of reasons, including his work in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and for what Mack said is his fighting spirit, which he will bring to Washington if he becomes senator. Mack was known on Wall Street as “Mack the Knife” for his cost-saving efforts and his attention to detail efficiency at Morgan Stanley.
“He’s fighting for what he believes in,” Mack told CNBC in a text message.
While Trump recently supported Oz, some of Trump’s old allies have donated to the McCormick camp.
McCormick has received donations from Ray Washburne, a real estate mogul and former chief financial officer of the Republican National Committee; Brian Ballard, a veteran lobbyist and big fundraiser for Trump; and Christine Toretti, an oil and gas chief who was part of Trump’s transition team and his candidate for ambassador to Malta before her nomination was sent back by the Senate.
Washburne is a huge hitter on the campaign track. He was also part of Trump’s transition team and was one of Bush’s political fundraisers during his campaigns in 2000 and 2004.
Jess Szymanski, a spokeswoman for McCormick’s campaign, downplayed McCormick’s Wall Street tapes in an email statement. She noted that the former Bridgewater director has also raised $ 1 million from Pennsylvania donors in all 67 counties and that he has enough support to win an expensive race.
“Dave McCormick has shown that he is the only one in this race who has the broad support and fundraising strength needed to lead one of the most expensive and important Senate races in the country and hold the seat in Republican hands,” Szymanski said .
Oz’s campaign took the opportunity to target McCormick.
“David McCormick is the ultimate insider for the establishment. He continues to whirl, despite spending millions on a China-funded smear campaign,” Oz spokeswoman Brittany Yanick said in an email.