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Singer, Paul

paul-singer.jpg
  • Elliot Management Corporation: Founder and CEO

  • Manhattan Institute: Chairman, board of trustees

  • Republican Jewish Coalition: Board of directors

  • Commentary Magazine: Board of directors

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Billionaire investor Paul Singer is the founder and CEO of the hedge fund Elliott Management Corporation and an important backer of rightwing “pro-Israel” advocacy in the United States. He has used some of his fortune to finance a host of Republican, neoconservative, and more traditionally philanthropic causes. "Depending on your view of campaign finance," observed a writer for the Washington Post, "he's either an activist donor, or an example of how campaign finance has gotten out of hand."[1]

Singer is deeply involved in a network of right-wing, “pro-Israel” organizations. He serves on the boards of Commentary magazine,[2] the Republican Jewish Coalition,[3] and the Manhattan Institute, where he chairs the board of trustees.[4] He is a former board member of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs,[5] has funded neoconservative research groups like the Middle East Media Research Institute and the Center for Security Policy, and—along with Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson—is among the largest funders of the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies.[6] He was also connected to the pro-Iraq War advocacy group Freedom’s Watch.[7]

Singer has supported numerous political campaigns, including most recently the presidential campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio, the hawkish Florida Republican who is close to the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party. In an October 2015 letter to fellow donors announcing his endorsement of Rubio, Singer wrote that Rubio is the “best explainer of conservative in public life today” and the “strongest choice” for the nomination.[8]

Although he has a clear track record supporting foreign policy hawks, when compared to other avid "pro-Israel" donors like Sheldon Adelson, Singer has been less vocal about his personal views on foreign policy. According to a New York Times profile, Singer “believes in the doctrine of American exceptionalism and is wary about United States involvement in ‘international organizations and alliances.’ As for the war in Iraq, he said, ‘America finds itself at an early stage of a drawn-out existential struggle with radical strains of pan-national Islamists.’”[9] A 2010 story on Singer’s political activism reported that Singer once complained to a friend about what he regarded as “the Obama administration’s inadequate support for Israel.”[10]

Much of Singer’s political activism concerns his wealth and profession. As a member of the Committee on Capital Markets Regulation,[11] Singer promoted certain forms of financial regulation in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, once writing in the Wall Street Journal, “While many of [President] Obama's ideas warrant skepticism, conservative opposition to any expanded role for government is a mistake. There is an urgent need for a new global regulatory initiative that addresses the primary cause of the financial collapse: highly leveraged and concentrated positions.”[12] On the other hand, Singer has also complained about “indiscriminate attacks by political leaders against anything that moves in the world of finance”[13] and vigorously campaigned against tax hikes on America’s wealthiest earners. “Resentment is not morally superior to earning money,” he quipped in a private investment newsletter in 2012, complaining about critics of income inequality.[14]

TheTimes reported that “Singer says his conservatism dates back to Barry Goldwater and is founded on free enterprise and a belief that the government should ‘not be taking from one person and giving to another.’ He abhors what he calls social engineering and he has financially supported state propositions that advocate preventing state agencies from collecting racial information.”[15]

On Wall Street, Singer is well known for his conservative, cutthroat investing style. In 1977, after he founded the Elliott Management Corporation—one of the oldest hedge funds in the United States, which at one point counted Dan Senor among its partners—Singer quickly gained a reputation for making risk-averse yet lucrative investments. “From the early days,” reported Fortune, “Singer focused on distressed assets. He became adept at buying up the debt of bankrupt companies and gained a reputation for strong-arming his way to profit.”[16]

Political Contributions

According to tax filings, Singer’s foundation has generously donated to the American Enterprise Institute, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Institute for the Study of War, the Claremont Institute, The Israel Project, and the Philanthropy Roundtable.[17] Interestingly, although Singer himself has donated large sums to pro-marriage equality campaigns—at least $10 million, according to an April 2014 report in the Washington Post[18]—his foundation has for years supported the socially conservative Witherspoon Institute, which is associated with the conservative Catholic “natural law” scholar Robert P. George.[19]

Singer has also donated generously to Republican political campaigns. During the George W. Bush years, Singer donated millions of dollars to the Bush-Cheney vehicle Progress for America and thousands to Swift Vets and POWs for Truth, the political action group that notoriously launched false and misleading attacks on the military service record of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.[20] He later served as a key policy adviser and fundraiser for former New York Mayor Rudy Giulani’s 2008 presidential campaign.[21]

In October 2015, Singer formally endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The New York Times said of Singer’s endorsement: “Mr. Rubio has aggressively embraced the cause of wealthy pro-Israel donors like Mr. Adelson, whom the senator is said to call frequently, and Mr. Singer, who both serve on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, an umbrella group for Republican Jewish donors and officials.”[22]

CNN also stated at the time that Singer’s endorsement would allow Rubio to tap into “a vast network of people who will give hard dollars to Rubio and lots of money to his super PAC.”[23] According to a report by the Center for Responsive Politics, Singer personally gave more than $11.5 million to conservative groups in 2014, “more than any Republican in the country.”[24]

During the 2012 cycle, Singer was a top contributor to Restore Our Future, the Republican Super PAC associated with the Mitt Romney presidential campaign.[25] According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Singer was the 19th-most prolific disclosed donor to Super PACS during the 2012 cycle.[26] An avid donor to the Club for Growth, a right-wing 501(c)4 that supports Tea Party candidates, Singer was reportedly a major supporter of the Romney campaign's decision to tap Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)—who made a name for himself proposing tax cuts for the rich along with deep cuts to the social safety net—as its vice presidential pick.[27]

Right-wing Politics and Cutthroat Investing

Many of Singer’s financial tactics have proven controversial. According to journalist Greg Palast—who calls the investor the “Vulture Singer”—“Singer's modus operandi is to find some forgotten tiny debt owed by a very poor nation. … He waits for the United States and European taxpayers to forgive the poor nations' debts, then waits a bit longer for offers of food aid, medicine and investment loans. Then Singer pounces, legally grabbing at every resource and all the money going to the desperate country. Trade stops, funds freeze, and an entire economy is effectively held hostage. Singer then demands aid-giving nations pay monstrous ransoms to let trade resume.”[28]

According to Palast, Singer once demanded $400 million from the impoverished Democratic Republic of the Congo for a debt he had acquired for less than $10 million, and on another occasion secured a $58-million payment from Alberto Fujimori’s government in Peru in exchange for letting the dictator flee the country in a private plane Singer had seized.[29]

Some observers have sought to draw connections between Singer's investment deals and his support for rightist activist groups. For instance, in early 2015, Singer’s support for neoconservative and rightwing “pro-Israel” advocacy groups drew media attention when observers—spurred by comments made by Argentina President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner—highlighted how groups in the United States who have received donations from Singer have been among the more vocal proponents of the idea that Argentina has tried to cover up alleged Iranian terrorist attacks.[30] Such accusations against the Argentine government have been occurring as Singer’s hedge fund, Elliot Management, has been engaged in a long-running dispute with Argentina to payback in full the amount of its defaulted debt that Elliot Management bought after Argentina’s 2001 debt default.[31]

This news followed on earlier reports highlighting correlations between Singer’s election donations and congressional campaigns targeting Argentina. The Inter Press Service reported in July 2013, "Many letters expressing concern about Argentina’s ties to Iran are signed by lawmakers who have received campaign cash from Singer and his close associates," including Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).[32]

The Singer-backed Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) has issued numerous reports accusing Argentina of aiding an Iranian cover-up of Hezbollah's purported role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.[33] FDD has also been a strong supporter and promoter of the work of the late Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was the chief investigator of the 1994 Buenos Aires bombing and was found dead in January 2015 on the night before he was scheduled to provide testimony about his charges against Argentina President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.[34]

In 2006, Nisman accused Iran of being behind the 1994 bombing, a claim that many observers have argued is based on flimsy evidence. Shortly before his death, Nisman made the charge that the Kirchner government was trying conceal Iran’s role in the attack in order to secure favorable trade agreements with Iran.[35]

Roger Noriega—a former Bush administration official and a fellow at the Singer-backed American Enterprise Institute—has also been a prominent critic of Argentina. In 2013, he co-wrote an op-ed "calling on the U.S. government to hold Argentina accountable 'for its failures to abide by its obligations to international financial institutions' and 'troubling alliances with rogue governments.'" The Inter Press Service noted that Noriega himself was paid at least $60,000 in 2007 by Singer's Elliott Management Corporation to lobby the U.S. government on "Sovereign Debt Owed to a U.S. Company."[36]

In early 2015, Argentina President Kirchner highlighted Singer’s financial support for groups like these that have attempted to portray Argentina as an ally of alleged Iranian terrorism. Kirchner’s remarks were in turn the subject of an April 2015 Washington Post editorial that claimed that the Argentine president had resorted to “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.” The Post asked: “What do lobbyists at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the director of a Washington think tank have to do with hedge-fund manager Paul Singer and the Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who died mysteriously in January? … Well, according to Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, they are all part of a ‘global modus operandi’ that ‘generates international political operations of any type, shape and color.’”[37]

Media critics lambasted the Post’s coverage of the Kirchner incident. “If the Post had ‘followed the money,’ it perhaps would not have been so ‘confused’ by the connections Kirchner highlighted between Singer and those who have attacked her government over its allegedly nefarious relations with Iran,” wrote Jim Lobe and Charles David on LobeLog. “Kirchner may indeed have a political interest in claiming that an international conspiracy is defaming her government, but the evidence for such a conspiracy in this case is much stronger than the Post suggests,” Lobe and Davis added. “Millions of dollars have flowed from Singer’s pockets to the various neoconservative groups whose advocacy of confrontation with Iran has extended to attacking Argentina, in particular over its ties to the Islamic Republic.”[38]

Lobe and Davis highlighted the extent to which Singer funds groups like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the American Enterprise Institute, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, all of which, they say, have attempted to “tar Argentina and Kirchner with the Iranian brush.” They further stated that Singer and his Elliot Management Corporation stand to “make as much as $2 billion if they can collect full value on the debt they bought for pennies on the dollar after the country’s 2001 default.”[39]

A follow-up piece on LobeLog emphasized the role that another Singer-funded outfit, The Israel Project (TIP), has played in similarly disparaging Kirchner. The piece noted that since the arrival of TIP’s CEO Josh Block in August 2012, Singer has become “one of TIP’s two largest donors” and that TIP “has since provided a steady stream of content critical of Kirchner’s government.”[40]

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Sources


[1] Jaime Fuller, "Meet the wealthy donor who’s trying to get Republicans to support gay marriage," Washington Post "The Fix" blog, April 4, 2014,http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/04/04/the-money-man-behind-pro-gay-marriage-republicans/.



[2] Commentary, “About Us: Staff,” http://www.commentarymagazine.com/about/staff/.



[3] RJC, Paul Singer Board of Directors bio, http://www.rjchq.org/2012/07/paul-singer-board-of-directors/.



[4] Manhattan Institute, Board of Trustees, http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/trustees.htm.



[5] Landon Thomas, “Hedge Fund Chiefs, With Cash, Join Political Fray,” New York Times, January 25, 2007,http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/25/business/25hedge.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all.



[6] Eli Clifton, “Home Depot founder’s quiet $10 million right-wing investment,” Salon, August 5, 2013,http://www.salon.com/2013/08/05/home_depot_founder%E2%80%99s_quiet_10_million_right_wing_investment/.



[7] Matthew Mosk, “Economic Downturn Sidelines Donors to '527' Groups,” October 19, 2008, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2008-10-19/politics/36923049_1_wealthy-donors-independent-political-groups-evan-tracey.



[8] Theodore Schleifer, Sunlen Serfaty, and Dana Bash, “Top Republican billionaire Paul Singer endorses Marco Rubio,” CNN, October 31, 2015,http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/30/politics/marco-rubio-paul-singer-endorsement/.



[9] Landon Thomas, “Hedge Fund Chiefs, With Cash, Join Political Fray,” New York Times, January 25, 2007,http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/25/business/25hedge.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all.



[10] Eric Lichtblau, “Financier’s Largess Shows G.O.P.’s Wall St. Support,” New York Times, August 27, 2010,http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/28/us/politics/28singer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0%22%20%5Ct%20%22_blank.



[11] Committee on Capital Markets Regulation, “Members,” http://capmktsreg.org/members/.



[12] Paul Singer, “Free-Marketeers Should Welcome Some Regulation,” Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2009,http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123871848344884871.html.



[13] Eric Lichtblau, “Financier’s Largess Shows G.O.P.’s Wall St. Support,” New York Times, August 27, 2010,http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/28/us/politics/28singer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0%22%20%5Ct%20%22_blank.



[14] Michelle Celarier, “Mitt Romney's hedge fund kingmaker,” Fortune, March 26, 2012, http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2012/03/26/paul-singer-mitt-romney/.



[15] Landon Thomas, “Hedge Fund Chiefs, With Cash, Join Political Fray,” New York Times, January 25, 2007,http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/25/business/25hedge.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all.



[16] Michelle Celarier, “Mitt Romney's hedge fund kingmaker,” Fortune, March 26, 2012, http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2012/03/26/paul-singer-mitt-romney/.



[17] Guidestar.org, Paul E. Singer Foundation, 2010 Form 990, http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2011/272/009/2011-272009342-0817b514-F.pdf.



[18] Jaime Fuller, "Meet the wealthy donor who’s trying to get Republicans to support gay marriage," Washington Post "The Fix" blog, April 4, 2014,http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/04/04/the-money-man-behind-pro-gay-marriage-republicans/.



[19] Guidestar.org, Paul E. Singer Foundation, 2010 Form 990, http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2011/272/009/2011-272009342-0817b514-F.pdf.



[20] Landon Thomas, “Hedge Fund Chiefs, With Cash, Join Political Fray,” New York Times, January 25, 2007,http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/25/business/25hedge.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all.



[21] Landon Thomas, “Hedge Fund Chiefs, With Cash, Join Political Fray,” New York Times, January 25, 2007,http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/25/business/25hedge.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all.



[22] Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Confessore, “Paul Singer, Influential Billionaire, Throws Support to Marco Rubio for President,” The New York Times, October 30, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/31/us/politics/paul-singer-influential-billionaire-throws-support-to-marco-rubio-for-president.html.



[23] Theodore Schleifer, Sunlen Serfaty, and Dana Bash, “Top Republican billionaire Paul Singer endorses Marco Rubio,” CNN, October 31, 2015,http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/30/politics/marco-rubio-paul-singer-



[24] Theodore Schleifer, Sunlen Serfaty, and Dana Bash, “Top Republican billionaire Paul Singer endorses Marco Rubio,” CNN, October 31, 2015,http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/30/politics/marco-rubio-paul-singer-endorsement/.



[25] Nicholas Confessore, Michael Luo, and Mike McIntire, “In Republican Race, a New Breed of Superdonor,” New York Times, February 21, 2012,http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/22/us/politics/in-republican-race-a-new-breed-of-superdonor.html?pagewanted=all.



[26] Center for Responsive Politics, “2012 Top Donors to Outside Spending Groups,” http://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/summ.php?cycle=2012&disp=D&type=V.



[27] Jaime Fuller, "Meet the wealthy donor who’s trying to get Republicans to support gay marriage," Washington Post "The Fix" blog, April 4, 2014,http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/04/04/the-money-man-behind-pro-gay-marriage-republicans/.



[28] Greg Palast, “Uber-Vultures: The Billionaires Who Would Pick Our President,” Truthout, October 6, 2011, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/3772:ubervultures-the-billionaires-who-would-pick-our-president.



[29] Greg Palast, “Uber-Vultures: The Billionaires Who Would Pick Our President,” Truthout, October 6, 2011, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/3772:ubervultures-the-billionaires-who-would-pick-our-president.



[30] Eli Clifton, “Following Paul Singer’s Money, Argentina, and Iran (Continued),” LobeLog, May 8, 2015, http://www.lobelog.com/following-paul-singers-money-argentina-and-iran-continued/.



[31] Jim Lobe and Charles Davis, “Following the Money: The New Anti-Semitism?” LobeLog, May 1, 2015, http://www.lobelog.com/following-the-money-the-new-anti-semitism/.



[32] Charles Davis, “U.S. Hedge Funds Paint Argentina as Ally of Iranian ‘Devil’ – Part Two,” Inter Press Service, July 31, 2013,http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/07/u-s-hedge-funds-paint-argentina-as-ally-of-iranian-devil-part-two/.



[33] Charles Davis, “U.S. Hedge Funds Paint Argentina as Ally of Iranian ‘Devil’ – Part Two,” Inter Press Service, July 31, 2013,http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/07/u-s-hedge-funds-paint-argentina-as-ally-of-iranian-devil-part-two/.



[34] Jim Lobe and Charles Davis, “Following the Money: The New Anti-Semitism?” LobeLog, May 1, 2015, http://www.lobelog.com/following-the-money-the-new-anti-semitism/.



[35] Eli Clifton, “Following Paul Singer’s Money, Argentina, and Iran (Continued),” LobeLog, May 8, 2015, http://www.lobelog.com/following-paul-singers-money-argentina-and-iran-continued/.



[36] Charles Davis, "U.S. Hedge Funds Paint Argentina as Ally of Iranian ‘Devil’ – Part Two," Inter Press Service, July 31, 2013,http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/07/u-s-hedge-funds-paint-argentina-as-ally-of-iranian-devil-part-two/.



[37] Editorial Board, “Argentina’s president resorts to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories,” The Washington Post, April 23, 2015,http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/conspiracy-theory/2015/04/23/0d2d07ca-e90b-11e4-aae1-d642717d8afa_story.html.



[38] Jim Lobe and Charles Davis, “Following the Money: The New Anti-Semitism?” LobeLog, May 1, 2015, http://www.lobelog.com/following-the-money-the-new-anti-semitism/.



[39] Jim Lobe and Charles Davis, “Following the Money: The New Anti-Semitism?” LobeLog, May 1, 2015, http://www.lobelog.com/following-the-money-the-new-anti-semitism/.



[40] Eli Clifton, “Following Paul Singer’s Money, Argentina, and Iran (Continued),” LobeLog, May 8, 2015, http://www.lobelog.com/following-paul-singers-money-argentina-and-iran-continued/


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Singer, Paul Résumé


Affiliations

  • Paul E. Singer Family Foundation: Founder and CEO

  • Committee on Capital Markets Regulation: Member

  • Manhattan Institute: Chairman, board of trustees

  • Republican Jewish Coalition: Board of directors

  • Commentary Magazine: Board of directors

  • Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs: Former board member

  • Rudy Giuliani Presidential 2008 Campaign: Adviser, fundraiser




Business

  • Elliot Management Corporation: Founder and CEO




Education

  • Harvard Law School: JD

  • University of Rochester: BS

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