Private equity shops and hedge funds spent more than $625 million on the 2020 campaign cycle, according to a tally from the liberal advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform.
The report comes as the industry faces potential hikes in taxes and other changes to how income is treated that Democrats have proposed as part of a plan to pay for a massive package of new social spending.
The financial firms spent nearly $80 million on lobbying and nearly $550 million on campaign contributions, according to the AFC report. The report says Tom Steyer’s fund Fahr LLC, Citadel LLC, Blackstone Group and Susquehanna were the top spenders.
It’s unclear how the money was distributed. The report doesn’t specify how much each political party or candidate received.
The group contends the financial industry’s political spending buys it favor among lawmakers.
“Whether it is preserving favored tax loopholes or forestalling more comprehensive reform, private fund executives spend on politics for the purpose of getting richer at the expense of everyone else,” said Ricardo Valadez, private equity campaign manager at AFR.
The American Investment Council, an advocacy and lobbying group for the private equity industry, says the sector grows businesses and supports jobs across all 50 states. And not just for the rich, it says, as pension funds and university endowments turn to the industry for higher returns in an era of ultra-low interest rates.
“The industry delivers the highest long-term returns to investors and supports a secure retirement for teachers, firefighters and other public servants,” the council said in a statement.
Still, hedge funds and private equity firms face an increase in capital gains taxes and the possible end to the so-called carried-interest loophole that lets holders of private equity pay a lower tax rate on their earnings.
President Biden’s Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan has also called for increased scrutiny of private equity deals.
The report states the 2020 cycle was private equity and hedge funds biggest spend of any election cycle: In 2016, they spent around $500 million on political contributions.
The 2020 election cost an estimated $14 billion in total — making it the most expensive in history, according to data from Open Secrets.