Vulture capitalist Paul Singer, Martha McSally and same-sex marriage, oh my!

You are all familiar with the billionaire bastard Koch brothers and their “Kochtopus” web of dark money organizations operating out of the state of Maricopa.  And you are familiar with the corrupt casino magnate Sheldon Adelson who uses the house winnings from his casino in Macao to try to buy elections here in America.

Now its time to get to know a lesser-known cohort of theirs, billionaire vulture capitalist Paul Singer. Paul E. Singer – SourceWatch:

PaulSingerPaul E. Singer, a former corporate lawyer, is “the founding partner of Elliott Associates . . . a hedge fund in business since 1977.

Mr. Singer is a self-described conservative libertarian who has given millions of dollars to Republican organizations that emphasize a strong military and support Israel.”

Singer is a member of the Board of Trustees of the neo-conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research; a “member of the boards of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and of Commentary Magazine, and is on the Board of Advisors of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University”, and a member of the Board of Fellows of Harvard Medical School.

Recipients of Singer’s contributions “include Progress for America ($1.5 million in contributions), a political advocacy group set up to advance the policies of the Bush administration; Swift Vets and P.O.W.’s for Truth; and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which includes Vice President Dick Cheney and Richard N. Perle, an adviser to the former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, among its past and current advisory directors.”

Singer was acknowledged at the privately held Koch seminar in June 2011 in Vail, Colorado for donating at least $1 million to Koch-related causes.

Paul Singer is a complex guy. He also supports pro-gay marriage Republicans, funds pro-immigration reform groups, and recently started his own club of donors, a la the Koch brothers, to join him in his efforts. (That sound you heard is Cathi Herrod’s head exploding).

Singer is also a supporter of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Wealthy, Influential, Leaning Republican and Pushing a Christie Bid for President:

There is Kenneth G. Langone, the billionaire Home Depot founder who is perhaps Mr. Christie’s most fervent booster; Paul E. Singer, the publicity-shy hedge fund magnate and Republican activist who is among the most-sought-after Republican donors in the country; and David H. Koch, the industrialist, Tea Party benefactor and, according to Forbes, the richest man in New York.

Charles R. Schwab, the personal investment guru, is also among those who have shown interest in seeing a Christie presidential bid, according to published reports and people familiar with the discussions, as is the financier Stanley F. Druckenmiller. So are the hedge fund managers David Tepper and Daniel S. Loeb, a onetime supporter of President Obama.

Singer’s latest project is “Winning Women,” a fundraising committee devoted to electing more Republican women to Congress. Andy Kroll at Mother Jones investigates Singer’s latest project. The GOP’s “Fundraising Terrorist” Has a New Cause:

[T]he most recent round of federal campaign filings has revealed a new cause of Singer’s: Winning Women, a fundraising committee devoted to electing more Republican women to Congress and so countering the claim that the GOP is anti-women. Winning Women is funded largely by Singer, employees of his hedge fund, and donors with ties to Singer. In addition, Singer cohosted a fundraiser to help the female GOP candidates backed by Winning Women so far.

Winning Women was formed in February, records show. In the first quarter of 2014, the committee funneled more than $320,000 to three candidates: Barbara Comstock, a former GOP consultant and opposition researcher vying to replace retiring Rep. Frank Wolf in Virginia’s 10th congressional district; Elise Stefanik, a former Bush administration aide running to represent New York’s 21st; and Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel in Arizona’s second district trying for the second time to unseat Democrat Rep. Ron Barber.

For each of three candidates, Winning Women’s money provided a major cash infusion. In Stefanik’s case, the $110,917 she received from Winning Women made up 70 percent of the donations to her campaign from January to March. The $109,832 McSally pocketed in the same period made up 36 percent of her first-quarter fundraising. Comstock, who won her fiercely fought GOP primary this past weekend, overall raised the most, $660,809, of the three candidates. More than $100,000 of that haul came from the Singer-linked committee.

Winning Women raised $361,000 in the first quarter of 2014, and much of that money came from Singer, his family, and donors with ties to the Singers. Sixteen employees of Elliott Management and its London office, Elliott Advisers, contributed $104,250, including Singer and his son, Gordon. Thirteen attorneys at Kleinberg Kaplan Wolff Cohen, a law firm close to Singer and Elliott, chipped in $7,850. And other Singer-affiliated donors included employees of Singer’s family office and foundation, hedge fund investor Clifford Asness (a GOP ally of Singer’s in the marriage equality push), and consultant Phil Musser, a former executive director at the Republican Governors Association. (Singer did not respond to a request for comment.)

Singer’s role with Winning Women underscores the growing clout of wealthy donors in the post-Citizens United era. Another federal PAC tied to Singer, Friends for an American Majority, has raised $1.2 million and handed out six figures in donations to Senate candidates including GOPers Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Steve Daines of Montana. In February, Singer’s donor club, the American Opportunity Alliance, debuted with an Aspen retreat reportedly featuring House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

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Bill Allison, the editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan transparency group, says Singer’s efforts to aggressively shape the direction of the Republican Party by providing cash infusions to preferred candidates and causes illustrate the impact of recent court decisions regarding campaign finance. “Now you have the ability to set up these networks of influence separate from the parties,” he says. “It creates these power centers outside the traditional two-party system, and these can pull the candidates in directions that are not necessarily where the party wants to go.”

Winning Women also bears the imprimatur of the Chicago-based Ricketts family, another powerful force in Republican money circles led by Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD AmeritradeSylvie Légère Ricketts, the wife of Chicago Cubs owner Todd Ricketts (Joe’s son), co-hosted the Winning Women fundraiser with Singer for Comstock, Stefanik, and McSally. Four members of the Ricketts family—Sylvie, Todd, Marlene, and Cecelia—also gave a combined $45,000 to the committee. (Interesting side note: Although much of the Ricketts family leans Republican, Laura, the daughter of patriarch Joe Ricketts, is a major fundraiser for Democrats and LGBT organizations.)

The Ricketts clan has plans for a donor alliance of its own. As Bloomberg reported last month, Joe Ricketts hopes to expand his political operation, Ending Spending, to include more activist donors like him. Already, Ricketts has recruited Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the biggest donor in modern history, to give to Ending Spending. “It has become clear to me that policy is made by the people who show up,” Todd Ricketts, who is Laura’s sister, told Bloomberg. “We’re showing up.”

The money contributed by Elliott Management’s London branch to Winning Women could raise questions for McSally, Comstock, and Stefanik. Elliott Advisers, run by Paul Singer’s son, Gordon, stands accused of insider trading by a French financial regulator, which is considering whether to fine Elliott Advisers $55 million for market manipulation and trading on inside information regarding a French motorway company called APRR. (Elliott has denied any wrongdoing in the matter.)

None of the three candidates who received Winning Women’s help responded to requests for comment. [You’re shocked, I’m sure.]

Arizona’s Politics blog has more details. NEWS ANALYSIS: Martha McSally’s Main Fundraiser: Did Republican Billionaire and Others Cloak Their Mega-Support For “Winning Women” Candidates? Marriage Equality Is Still Difficult Issue In GOP:

 “Winning Women” took place in late March, and netted McSally’s campaign $109,832.43.  McSally is the heavy favorite in the GOP primary for the right to challenge Rep. Ron Barber (D-CD2) in November.  However, what appears to have been an effort to support and elect conservative women to Congress (a subject that has been much debated recently) more likely is an effort to support GOP candidates who favor marriage equality.

First, the co-hosts.  “Winning Women” was co-hosted by Paul Singer and Sylvie Légère Ricketts.  Singer is a billionaire hedge fund CEO (Elliott Advisors), who has made changing the GOP’s opposition to same-sex marriage one of his primary political endeavors.  He has spent more than $10M in this effort, and was the primary 2012 founder and funder of the American Unity PAC, which is focused on the issue.

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The co-hosts have all (Singers and Légère Ricketts) indicated that their passion to push the GOP towards marriage equality is driven by having family members (son and sister-in-law, respectively) who are homosexual.

Second, the supporters.  The Singers – along with persons at Elliott Management  and Singers’ employees – contributed $123,700 to the fundraiser.*  The Ricketts family added another $45,000.  The balance came from a variety of persons involved in political and charitable giving in New York and the tri-state area, Chicago, and Florida.  A few notable names include WWE founders Linda and Vince McMahon ($18,600), former American Express and AIG chairman Harvey Golub ($10,000) and Candace Straight – “a national moderate Republican leader” ($6,000).

Third, the candidates/beneficiaries.  Two years ago, McSally told the conservative Center for Arizona Policy that she would fight for a U.S. Constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between opposite-sex individuals.  However, in an interview this past December, she indicated that she did not like the yes-or-no format and thought an essay would have been better.  She said the hypothetical presented by the CAP questionaire “is not happening anytime soon” and that it is an issue best left to the states.

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McSally is not facing the same intense primary battles against more conservative candidates that Stefanik and Comstock appear to be, but she has been very cautious in stating any views that might alienate voters in the primary.  Rep. Barber is firmly on the record as supporting marriage equality and her position could become a topic then, but as witnessed in the Jim Nintzel interview cited earlier, McSally is able to persistently set the issue aside.

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Each of these data points – taken individually – should not be enough to convince you that female empowerment was not the key driver in this joint fundraiser.  Singer – and, people at his company and his attorneys – have issues other than same-sex marriage that they are interested in.  Immigration reform or securities laws, for examples.  Likewise, the  Légère Ricketts.  And, neither couple (yes, Singer’s wife also maxed out for the Winning Women) has shown passion for boosting the ranks of Republican women in Congress.  The candidates/beneficiaries have positions and opinions on subjects other than same-sex marriage – and, even their public semi-positions on that issue are hazy.

However, marriage equality is the only passionate issue at the intersection of Singers and Légère Ricketts. And, they are the ones who chose to support these three candidates out of a wide universe of Republicans (women and men).

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Whether or not you agree with the Singers’ and Légère Ricketts’ views on same-sex marriage, the most interesting aspect of cloaking the joint fundraiser as “Winning Women” is that Republican candidates (and fundraisers) are still apparently reluctant to declare their openness to movement (evolution) on the issue.

Here’s the best part: Arizona’s Politics asked co-hosts, McSally’s campaign, and prominent gay Republicans to comment on the current state of mind of the GOP regarding this topic. Surprise! Yet another evasive non-response from Team McSally: “Winning Women was formed to support three promising female candidates and we are honored for the nationwide support to get us to victory in November” — Campaign spokesperson Kristen Douglas.

And from Daniel Scarpinato’s vetriloquist puppet, Martha McSally:

“I am grateful for the support of those who want to see more women in Congress to better represent our country and provide leadership and solutions to DC. Ron Barber has been asleep at the switch on issues that are extremely important to Southern Arizona, such as fighting for the A-10 and Davis-Monthan. That is why Nancy Pelosi is stepping in to try to save his job in November. Sometimes the best man for the job is a woman that is why I fully intend on replacing Congressman Barber on Election Day.”  — Martha McSally

Paging Cathi Herrod and the Center for Arizona Policy: you may want to start asking “questions for Martha McSally” as well. Just sayin’.

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