Super Donor Profiles

Published — September 28, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Donor profile: James H. Simons

Quick stats on the biggest financial backers of Election 2012


Ranking: 11

Total contributions to super PACs: $9.6 million*

Notable federal hard money and 527 contributions:

  • $144,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (since 2007)
  • $58,900 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (since 2007)
  • $7,400 to Secretary of State and former Sen. Hillary Clinton (since 2008)
  • $5,050 to President Barack Obama (since 2008)
  • $4,800 to Sen. Chuck Schumer (since 2009)
  • $2,100 to former Sen. Chris Dodd (since 2006)

Notable state-level contributions (see here):

  • $85,000 to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (since 2010)
  • $20,000 to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (since 2010)
  • $6,000 to former New York Attorney General and Gov. Eliot Spitzer (2005)

Corporate name: Renaissance Technologies

Total spent on federal lobbying (2007-2012): $1.6 million

Lobbying issues: taxes, accounting, finance


James Simons is founder and former CEO of Renaissance Technologies, a Long Island-based hedge fund with $15 billion under management.

The firm uses complex mathematical analyses and computer modeling to make investment decisions. Simons holds a doctorate in mathematics from the University of California, Berkley and a bachelor’s degree, also in mathematics, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Simons retired as CEO in 2010, but continues to play a role in the company. Robert Mercer, its current CEO, is a prolific Republican contributor and ranks No. 16 on the Center for Public Integrity’s “Super Donors” list, with $5.5 million in super PAC contributions during the 2012 election cycle.

Prior to starting Renaissance Technologies in 1982, Simons was a code breaker at the U.S. National Security Agency and later worked at IBM, where he met Mercer. He also served as chairman of the mathematics department at Stony Brook University in New York.

Simons’ top beneficiary was Priorities USA Action, which supported the re-election of President Barack Obama. He is also a volunteer fundraiser for the group, according to the New York Times. During the Democratic National Convention in August, Simons hosted a fundraising event for Priorities USA Action and other Democratic super PACs at his home outside of Charlotte, N.C.

Simons has donated to a number of well-known Democrats over the years, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Sen. Chris Dodd, but doesn’t say much about his positions, at least not publicly.

“The fact is that I am not seeking any publicity in this matter,” he recently told the Times. “The donations can speak for themselves.”

Simons, whose net worth Forbes estimates at $11 billion, founded the Nick Simons Institute and created the eight-acre Avalon Park and Preserve through the Paul Simons Foundation in memory of two of his sons, who were killed in separate accidents in 1996 and 2003. In addition, he is a supporter of autism research.

He has donated more than $1 billion to the Paul Simons Foundation and at least $210 million to Stony Brook University. The Stony Brook University Foundation, a scholarship-granting organization of which he is chairman emeritus, lost $5.4 million to the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme in 2008.

Last updated: Jan. 17, 2013

*2011-2012 election cycle. Source: Center for Responsive Politics and Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission records. Totals include contributions from individuals, family members and corporations that are controlled by the individual super donor.

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