Union and community protesters are marching today on the home of Paul Tudor Jones, the founder and head of the Greenwich, Connecticutbased hedge fund firm Tudor Investment Corporation with the hopes of calling attention to the financial influence of billionaires in the political process. Hedge Clippers, a campaign organized by the Strong Economy for All Coalition, a New Yorkarea labor and community action group, aims to, according to its press release, expose the mechanisms hedge funds and billionaires use to influence government and politicians in order to expand their wealth, influence and power. At first blush, however, Paul Tudor Jones is not the most obvious target for the protesters ire.
After founding his hedge fund firm in 1980, Tudor Jones has become one of the wealthiest managers in the industry and owns one of the most resplendent homes in affluent Greenwich. At the same time, Jones is well known for his philanthropy. He founded the Robin Hood Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at tackling poverty in New York. He has also fought to preserve the Florida Everglades. The protesters, however, allege that Tudor Jones largesse is undercut by his support of Republican candidates and the opulence of his own lifestyle.
Compared to other hedge fund managers, such as John Paulson and Paul Singer on the Republican side and Marc Lasry and Jim Chanos, who both back Democrats, Tudor Jones is not very active in politics. Nonetheless, the Strong Economy for All Coalition has identified donations Tudor Jones made to state-level Republican candidates running in New York support the group alleges helped move New York State government back into Republican control.
Regardless of whether Tudor Jones deserves to be the target of protests on his front lawn, the demonstration is a signal of what may lie ahead in the U.S. as the country gears up for the 2016 election cycle. Income inequality in the U.S. and other parts of the developed world is at an all-time high. The boom in financial services over the past few years that has been so generous to Tudor Jones and others like him left behind many in the middle and lower classes. In the U.S., the issue is magnified by the role donations play in the political system.
The rich are not blind to the problem. Tudor Jones Robin Hood Foundation is but one example of an organization that is trying to tackle the problem of what to do about those the economy has left behind. The spectacle of billionaires flying into the Swiss ski resort of Davos to discuss income inequality at the World Economic Forum this past January might have been at once both humorous and distressful. But the issue is real.
Where the political left and the political right disagree is on the solution. Those on the left in the organized labor movement believe that the problem needs to be fixed from the ground up by raising tax revenue, giving more to public services, creating better jobs and better schools. Those on the right believe in a top-down solution that argues government is costly and inefficient. Philanthropy and public markets are a better way, goes the reasoning, to tackle the deep-seated problems of poverty.
It is clear that the issues of income inequality and big money in politics will weigh heavily on the 2016 election.
Institutional Investor Editorial Research Assistant Jess Delaney is covering the protest today at Tudor Jones home in Greenwich. You can follow him live on Twitter at @jdelaney_NYC, as well as Institutional Investors account, @iimag, and Imogen Rose-Smith, the author of this story, at @ImogenNYC.