By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: December 18, 2020 ~
As most folks know, the fate of the Biden administration, the fate of the nation, and the future of millions of Americans about to become homeless through foreclosures, evictions and their businesses shuttering as a result of the pandemic – thus creating lots of distressed real estate debt for hedge funds and Wall Street speculators to scoop up on the cheap – hangs on the outcome of two U.S. Senate races in Georgia slated for January 5.
Those January runoff elections in Georgia resulted from the outcome of the November 3 election when incumbent Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler (who was appointed to her Senate seat by Georgia Governor Ben Kemp) failed to get more than 50 percent of the vote. The two candidates are now facing tight races against their Democratic challengers in Georgia. Perdue is facing off against Jon Ossoff while Loeffler is pitted against Raphael Warnock.
If Democrats win both seats they would take control of the U.S. Senate, now controlled by a Republican majority. Democrats already control the House. That would enable Democrats to back Biden’s policy agenda and break the current logjam in getting anything done in Congress for millions of struggling Americans who have lost jobs and businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Loeffler is married to Jeff Sprecher, the CEO of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the parent of the New York Stock Exchange. Loeffler was, herself, an executive at the New York Stock Exchange prior to her appointment to the Senate. She was negatively critiqued in the New York Times for the haul of money she was rewarded when she left to join the U.S. Senate.
As exposed in the Michael Lewis bestseller, Flash Boys, and characterized by Jonathon Trugman as “a high-priced, high frequency brothel,” the New York Stock Exchange has devolved into a wealth transfer scheme for the one percent. The New York Stock Exchange allows high frequency traders to co-locate their computers next to the stock exchange’s main computers so they can gain a speed advantage over other customers at a monthly cost that only the richest hedge funds and Wall Street trading houses can afford to pay.
In the Afterword that appears in the paperback edition of Flash Boys, Michael Lewis writes: “In 2014, this giant money manager bought and sold roughly $80 billion in U.S. stocks. The teachers and firefighters and other middle-class investors whose pensions they managed were collectively paying a tax of roughly $240 million a year for the benefit of interacting with high-frequency traders in unfair markets.”
In a Senate hearing in 2014, Senator Elizabeth Warren described the high frequency trading that the New York Stock Exchange and other exchanges are facilitating as follows:
“High frequency trading reminds me a little of the scam in [the movie] “Office Space.” You know, you take just a little bit of money from every trade in the hope that no one will complain. But taking a little bit of money from zillions of trades adds up to billions of dollars in profits for these high frequency traders and billions of dollars in losses for our retirement funds and our mutual funds and everybody else in the market place. It also means a tilt in the playing field for those who don’t have the information or have the access to the speed or big enough to play in this game.”
Getting the wife of the CEO of the parent of the New York Stock Exchange in the Senate is apparently worth the price of admission. Forbes reports that Loeffler’s husband, Sprecher, “contributed $10.5 million to a super-PAC called Georgia United Victory, making him the largest individual donor to the group between July and Election Day…” Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of the giant hedge fund, Citadel, kicked in another $3 million to the same PAC, Federal Election Commission (FEC) records through October 9 show.
The names of billionaires connected to Wall Street also appear throughout the records of another campaign financing vehicle that is raising money for Loeffler. This one is misleadingly titled “Georgians for Kelly Loeffler.” We found 111 entries for New Yorkers making contributions to the group and 243 entries for contributions from Californians, according to FEC records.
A significant number of those New Yorkers and Californians are tied to Wall Street and/or the New York Stock Exchange. Unlike the super-PAC called Georgia United Victory, the campaign finance vehicle, Georgians for Kelly Loeffler, has much smaller caps on contributions that can be made per election cycle. Those were maxed out by the billionaires.
Hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer of Elliott Management, who lists an address in New York City on his FEC contribution to Georgians for Kelly Loeffler, chipped in the $5600 max.
Billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman and CEO of leveraged buyout firm, Blackstone, and his wife, Christine, maxed out their contributions of $5600 each to Georgians for Kelly Loeffler. Christine Schwarzman listed the couple’s address on Park Avenue in New York City. The Guardian newspaper has described that residence as follows: “35 rooms including a foyer the size of a ballroom, his-and-hers saunas, a pine-paneled library, 11 fire replaces and 13 bathrooms.”
Billionaire Griffin of Citadel, who lists his address as Chicago, also maxed out his contribution of $5600 to Georgians for Kelly Loeffler.
Steven Tanenbaum, founding partner of Golden Tree Asset Management, (which, wait for it, invests in distressed debt) and his wife, Lisa, gave $2800 each. They list their address as Harrison, New York.
One-percenters showing a residence in California who contributed to Georgians for Kelly Loeffler include Charles Schwab with a donation of $2800.
John Chambers, the former CEO of Cisco who founded and is the CEO of venture capital firm, JC2 Ventures, chipped in $5600 to Georgians for Kelly Loeffler. His wife, Constance, did the same. They show a residence in Palo Alto, California that RedFin currently estimates to have a market value of $27.7 million.
Sean Collins, co-founder and Managing Partner of Goldfinch Partners, also maxed out with his $5600 contribution to Georgians for Kelly Loeffler. His company states on its website that it “invests in the enterprise technology companies that power digital transformation.” He shows an address on FEC records as living in Hillsborough, California.
This is just a tiny sampling of the out-of-state one-percenters that are piling into the Georgia Senate race. CNN reported on December 8 that these Senate races may result in historic ad spending, writing: “The twin races have drawn staggering sums already: Television and advertising spending had approached $400 million as of Tuesday, according to the latest data from Kantar’s Campaign Media Analysis group. So far, Republicans lead Democrats in spending by about $242.4 million to $154.3 million.”
Welcome to American “democracy,” circa 2020.