Daniel Loeb, a well-known hedge fund manager and political fundraiser, is the founder of the multibillion-dollar hedge fund Third Point LLC, which maintains offshore subsidiaries and affiliates in the tax havens of Guernsey and the Cayman Islands.
Loeb has frequently made headlines in recent years because of his combative shareholder activism at the tech company Yahoo, where Third Point held more than 40 million shares. Under pressure from Loeb, Yahoo fired two successive CEOs and finally settled on Marissa Mayer, a well-known transplant from Yahoo competitor Google. In July 2013, Loeb announced that he was resigning from Yahoo's board after Third Point sold most of its shares back to the company for over $1 billion, netting a pre-tax profit of over $600 million even as news of the sale devalued Yahoo's stock several points.
Loeb has leveraged his fortune to benefit various political causes. Although he is a registered Democrat, he helped to raise millions of dollars for the 2012 presidential campaign of Republican Mitt Romney. He is also a key financial supporter of the Emergency Committee for Israel, a controversial neoconservative pressure group that has attacked the Obama administration's Mideast policies and led advocacy efforts aimed at pushing the United States to bomb Iran.
Loeb was apparently motivated to support Romney in the 2012 campaign because of his anger at the Obama administration's efforts to regulate the financial industry. These efforts led Loeb to complain that Obama was interested in "redistribution rather than growth."
In a widely noted 2010 letter he addressed to a group of friends, Loeb complained about Obama: "I am sure, if we are really nice and stay quiet," he wrote, "everything will be alright and the president will become more centrist and that all his tough talk is just words. I mean, he really loves us and when he beats us, he doesn't mean it."
The letter fit neatly with Loeb's bombastic style. "Loeb's favored device is the scolding letter, formally addressed, publicly released, and ruthlessly frank in its assessments of managerial competence," noted the New Yorker in a 2005 profile. "To some degree, his manner is that of the traditional Wall Street crank: swagger and self-interest disguised as moralistic bombast. What Loeb brings, in terms of value-added, is tacked-on social commentary. … [C]all it hedge-fund populism."
Loeb's views on the Obama administration's regulatory policies and rhetoric were echoed by other leading financial figures who also had formerly supported Obama and other Democrats. This led some observers to note that Wall Street was turning against Obama and the Democratic Party and throwing its political support back to the Republicans. "That the honeymoon between Washington and Wall Street has turned to bitter recriminations is not news, given that the administration had long pledged to revamp Wall Street regulation in the wake of a crisis that rattled the global financial system," reported the New York Times in 2010. "Less than two years ago," it added, "Democrats received 70 percent of the donations from Wall Street; since June , when the financial regulation bill was nearing passage, Republicans were receiving 68 percent of the donations."
In July 2012, Loeb co-hosted a $25,000-per-person fundraiser for the Romney campaign in the Hamptons, where some wealthy donors shared their critiques of the Obama administration and advice for Romney with reporters. "I don't think the common person is getting it," the Los Angeles Times quoted one donor. "Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them. … I just think if you're lower income—one, you're not as educated, two, they don't understand how [the system] works." The Times noted that the line of traffic streaming into the Hamptons estate of realty magnate Ronald Perelman, where the fundraiser was hosted, included "Range Rovers, BMWs, Porsche roadsters and one gleaming cherry red Ferrari."
The fundraisers' conspicuous displays of wealth evoked derision from some of the Romney camp's critics, who have long argued that the candidate primarily represents the interests of the wealthy. "Mitt Romney's three Hamptons fundraisers on Sunday were like a Priorities USA ad," wrote Salon's Joan Walsh, "except the creative directors of the pro-Obama super PAC would have rejected the script as over-the-top."
Also noteworthy is Loeb's support for an organization known for its militaristic advocacy campaigns promoting hawkish "pro-Israel" policies and war with Iran. Think Progress reported in July 2012 that Loeb was the largest single donor to the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) PAC, a neoconservative pressure group whose board has included Bill Kristol, Rachel Abrams, and Gary Bauer. ECI gained notoriety in 2010 and 2011 for its advertising campaigns showing photographs of President Obama with Palestinian leaders captioned with "President Obama: Not Pro-Israel," as well as for its stark calls for war with Iran and its misleading characterization of the Occupy Wall Street movement as "anti-Semitic." "[T]rying to discredit Occupy seems a natural move for a hedge-funder," wrote Think Progress' Ali Gharib of Loeb's support for ECI.
Despite his rightward trajectory on U.S. politics and Israel, Loeb did offer financial support for marriage equality in the state of New York. During his quest to bring same-sex marriage to the state, reported the New York Times, "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sought the backing of three financiers: Paul E. Singer, the founder of Elliott Management and an ardent Republican donor; Clifford S. Asness, the head of the quant fund AQR Capital; and Daniel S. Loeb, the leader of Third Point. … Both Mr. Singer and Mr. Loeb," the paper added, "have lent support to gay-marriage efforts in the past."
Some progressive commentators, while personally supportive of marriage equality, questioned the New York governor's solicitation of Wall Street backing for his social agenda. "Knowing that [same-sex] marriage doesn't threaten their profits," wrote David Sirota for In These Times, "these moneyed interests opted to help their ally Cuomo notch a strategic win—one that allows the governor to preen as a great liberal champion to the state's left-leaning voters, all while he simultaneously presses an anti-union, economically conservative agenda that moneyed interests support."