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Citadel’s CEO Ken Griffin becomes GOP $100 million midterm megadonor

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Ken Griffin, Citadel at CNBC’s Delivering Alpha, Sept. 28, 2022.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Citadel’s billionaire CEO, Ken Griffin, is one among Wall Street’s biggest political donors within the 2022 midterms, giving greater than $100 million toward state and federal candidates across the country since April 2021, campaign finance records show.

The $50 million Griffin has donated to Republicans running in federal races alone make him the party’s single biggest individual donor from the finance industry and the third-biggest political donor to federal candidates on this election cycle, in line with data tracked by campaign finance watchdog OpenSecrets.

Only Soros Fund Management founder George Soros and shipping magnate Richard Uihlein have given more to candidates running for the U.S. House or Senate. Soros has donated over $128 million to Democrats while Uihlein has given $53 million to Republicans, in line with OpenSecrets.

Griffin, nevertheless, has spent one other $50 million during this election cycle — which runs from Jan. 1, 2021 through the tip of this yr — on the failed Illinois gubernatorial campaign of Aurora, Ailing., Mayor Richard Irvin, who lost within the Republican primary, in line with state campaign finance records.

Citadel announced plans this summer to maneuver its headquarters from Chicago to Miami, because the Windy City struggles to stop an increase in crime. Griffin has previously said a part of his feud with Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker is over the Democratic leader’s record on crime. Griffin said at a DealBook conference last yr that when he brought up the crime issue to Pritzker, “he took the moment to call me a liar.”

Zia Ahmed, a spokesman for Griffin, told CNBC in a press release that the Citadel CEO is aiming to “broaden the tent of the Republican Party.”

“Ken wants to raise talented candidates and broaden the tent of the Republican Party to make it more representative of our country,” Ahmed said. “He supports leaders who will concentrate on education, job creation, public safety and a powerful national defense in order that every individual has access to the American dream.”

Democratic political operatives have taken aim at Griffin, especially as he’s tried to make an impact on elections.

The Democratic Governors Association, an outdoor group that backs Democrats, organized opposition research on Griffin as he was deciding who to support within the Illinois Republican primary for governor. The research, which was reviewed by CNBC, is titled “Ken Griffin Has Been Playing Kingmaker In IL Politics With No Consequences.” It is a compilation of public documents and reporting that included a concentrate on Griffin’s divorces. Pritzker, who has an estimated net value of $3.6 billion, donated $24 million to the group as Griffin moved to back Irvin, in line with records filed to the IRS.

In a press release to CNBC, the Democratic governors’ group compared Griffin’s contributions to those of Charles Koch and his brother, the late David Koch. They said that Griffin deserves scrutiny as a result of him becoming a significant donor for Republicans.

“Very similar to when the Koch Brothers were the Republican Party’s primary donor it was vital for the general public to know how they were attempting to use their money to further their very own special interests,” a Democratic Governors Association spokesperson said after being asked in regards to the opposition research. “Ken Griffin is now the most important donor within the GOP and deserves the identical type of scrutiny.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other GOP leaders have privately courted Griffin as one among their most significant and lucrative donors this cycle, as Republicans attempt to take back each the U.S. House and Senate, in line with people accustomed to the conversations.

Democrats control the House and Senate, but by slim margins. The Senate is split 50-50 with Democrats counting on Vice President Kamala Harris to interrupt any ties. Cook Political Report labels Senate seats held by Sens. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., as toss-ups. Within the House, Democrats have a nine-seat majority. However the Cook report projects that 30 of the chamber’s 435 seats are up for grabs.

Data from AdImpact shows the overall election fight for control of the Senate has cost over $1 billion with almost 30 days left to go until Election Day. In total, federal candidates and PACs have spent in excess of $6.4 billion on the 2022 midterms, putting them heading in the right direction to be the costliest ever.

Republican leaders are turning to Griffin to take the lead after two of the GOP party’s most influential donors have died: former executive vice chairman of Koch Industries David Koch at 79 in August 2019 and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson at 87 in January 2021.

CEO and chairman of casino company Las Vegas Sands Sheldon Adelson (L) listens as US President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a Keep America Great rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 21, 2020.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

“He likes being a player” in politics, a Koch political advisor told CNBC when asked about Griffin’s efforts to sway the midterms. Griffin said in a 2012 interview with the Chicago Tribune that he knew David Koch and his brother Charles for “a lot of years” and often went to the Koch network seminars, where business leaders would huddle with the group’s donors.

The Koch’s policy network has spent tons of of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past decade on campaigns.

David Koch

Carlo Allegri | Reuters

Griffin, 53, has “youth on his side and possibly $35 billion,” the Koch advisor said. “He could step up but those are big shoes to fill.” Forbes estimates Griffin has a net value of $30.5 billion.

Amongst Wall Street executives, the following biggest GOP donors include Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman with $20 million in contributions and Paul Singer, the founding father of Elliott Management, who’s donated $14 million during this election cycle. Jeffrey Yass, the co-founder of Philadelphia based trading firm Susquehanna International Group, has contributed over $30 million.

McConnell and party officials this summer were expecting Griffin to chop a multimillion-dollar check to the Senate Leadership Fund, in line with those accustomed to McConnell’s considering. Though McConnell doesn’t run the super PAC, which is devoted to helping Republicans get elected to the Senate, it’s closely aligned with the senator and run by his former chief of staff, Steven Law.

Griffin donated $10 million to the PAC in two evenly split checks sent in December and March, Federal Election Commission filings show. Griffin cut one other check to the PAC within the third quarter, in line with an individual near the billionaire, but they would not say how much and the PAC doesn’t need to reveal its most up-to-date fundraising records to the FEC until Oct. 15.

Griffin also recently donated to the Congressional Leadership Fund, an excellent PAC backing House Republican candidates, that person said, declining to say how much. FEC records show Griffin donated over $18 million to that group from Jan. 1, 2021 through June.

A representative for McConnell didn’t return a request for comment.

Griffin gave $5 million last yr to a separate political motion committee backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 2022 reelection bid and an extra $5 million to the Republican Party of Florida in August, in line with state campaign finance records.

During CNBC’s Delivering Alpha Conference, Griffin indicated that he’s develop into so near DeSantis that his team told the governor that Griffin didn’t agree with DeSantis’ decision to fly two planes of Central and South American migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

“I do not agree with what he did,” Griffin said when asked on the conference about DeSantis shipping migrants to Florida. “I’m certain that my team’s communicated that to him,” he added. He also said he was open to becoming Treasury secretary if the country was experiencing an economic crisis. DeSantis hasn’t ruled out running for president within the upcoming 2024 election.

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