President Barack Obama has hardly been shy about exerting executive power. And yet he hasn’t closed the loophole that lets hedge fund and private equity moguls pay lower tax rates — an act that, some tax experts say, he and his Treasury Department already have the power to do.
While Obama blames Congress for blocking him from closing the so-called carried interest loophole, his private foundation has been busy raising money from the hedge fund and private equity industries that benefit from the tax break.
An International Business Times review of federal records shows that the hedge fund of at least one Obama Foundation donor has recently lobbied the Treasury Department on tax issues. Meanwhile, many of the Obama Foundation donors or board members with connections to the finance industry have visited the president at the White House numerous times during his administration.
For instance, James Simons of the hedge fund firm Renaissance Technologies gave the Obama Foundation between $500,000 and $1 million. Renaissance spent $300,000 lobbying the federal government in 2015, according to U.S. Senate records. The company’s outside lobbying firm specifically pressed the Treasury Department on “taxation of management fees, derivatives taxation, any other tax issues that may have an impact on clients,” the Senate records show. Meanwhile, visitor logs show that Simons visited the White House at least six times since Obama took office. His most recent visit was a dinner with the president and about 20 tech and science notables at the White House last year.
While his firm lobbied the Obama administration on taxes, Simons made $1.7 billion last year, according to Institutional Investor's list of the top paid hedge fund managers in 2015.
Ariel Investments’ John W. Rogers , D.E. Shaw’s David Shaw, and Grosvenor Capital Management’s Michael Sacks are also major donors to the Obama Foundation from the finance industry that benefits from the tax loophole. Additionally, Kleiner Perkins' John Doerr is on the board of the foundation. Visitor log records show that those executives have repeatedly visited the White House — including for meetings with President Obama himself. Ariel has also lobbied Obama’s Treasury Department in the past eight years. Shaw's $750 million in earnings in 2015 earned him a spot on Instiutional Investor's list.
Wall Street was generous to Obama long before he began raising money for his foundation, which is overseeing the construction of Obama's presidential library. During his campaigns for U.S. senator and president, Obama accepted more than $25 million from the securities and investment industry, according to the nonpartisan watchdog Center for Responsive Politics. That includes more than $2.6 million from donors in what the group classifies as “private equity and investment,” and more than $2 million from the hedge fund industry.