Mitt Loves N.Y.: John A. Griffin


Since the Citizens United decision, realpolitik has accepted the harsh reality in which a corporation has the same pedestal in our democratic elections as an ordinary Joe Schmoe. And, as a financial hub in America and abroad, New York has transformed into a politically charged Gotham; its corporate barons and hedge schemers run rampant under the new rules and regulations (or lack thereof).

With Mitt Romney as their de facto go-to candidate, the roster of Restore Our Future, Romney’s designated Super PAC slush fund, reads like a laundry list of New York City’s wealthiest denizens. And, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Super PAC’s are receiving a huge majority of their donations from these individuals rather then enormous corporations; the unintentional consequence of the Supreme Court’s opinion on the matter.
So, here at the Voice, we’re going to tell you a little bit about our neighbors, one donor at a time.
First up, John A. Griffin. The man is a “Tiger cub” – a term used to describe pupils of Julian Robertson Jr., the head of one of the first hedge funds to explode in the late 1990s, Tiger Management, and one of the largest donors to Restore Our Future ($1.25 million to Romney, as of today).

At Tiger, Griffin rose to the top and became second-in-command to Robertson; in 1996, he left and created the Tiger outgrowth known as Blue Ridge Capital LLC, a swanky hedge fund up at 660 Madison Avenue that buys short- and long-term investments. His portfolio value there is currently valued somewhere around $6 billion… and that’s just his hedge fund’s assets.

More importantly, both him and Robertson love Mitt.

This past April, the duo hosted a “Young Professionals for Mitt” fundraiser for their Number One man at Desmond’s NYC, a restaurant around the block from Blue Ridge’s offices. A “Young Professional” only had to pay $75 at the door (a good price for the debt-laden Youth of America) to get in and included a co-host line-up of future venture capitalists. It was like a playground for Bain types.

For example, Victoria Thain was one of the main names to stand out; her pops is John Thain, the last CEO of Merrill Lynch before it fell into Bank of America’s arms. Remember him? He’s the guy that spent over $1.2 million on garbage cans, rugs and a gold-plated commode for an extravagant conference room while his company verged on the cliff of financial meltdown. Yeah… that guy.

According to the last year-end report for Restore Our Future, Griffin, through Blue Ridge Capital LLC, bankrolled $100,000 for Romney. And, like most of the accounting done for Super PAC’s, that number is wildly underestimated due to reporting technicalities and loopholes in an already choke-holded electoral system.

But, as an individual, he has given plenty more to other Wall Street confidantes: $50,000 to the Cantor Victory Fund, the Super PAC of the Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor – a man who associates himself more with the corporate mob, not the protesting “mob“; a little over $2,500 to Romney for President Inc.; and $5,000 to place Scott Brown, the Republican successor to Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts and darling son of those looking to scalp the head off of financial reform, on the Senate Banking Committee.

And the list of investments for Blue Ridge Capital is like an Occupy hit list. Their SEC filings of 2011 show monies put into Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan & Chase and that little company known as Monsanto, the notorious GMO giant that is currently being sued by 5 million farmers in Brazil. Follow the six degrees of separation.

Another interesting facet of Griffin’s career is where his money is placed. Several of his company’s SEC filings are from offshore accounts, a notorious method of tax exemption for many One Percenters. This is a lesson picked up from Robertson, a man Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone described as the “Tax Dodger” for his affinity to not pay taxes: “In 2000, despite living and working in Manhattan, he logged 182 days outside the city – often racing to flee town by midnight – to avoid paying local income tax.” That’s what psychiatrists call an obsession.

This financial advantage comes in handy for Griffin, especially when he teaches future generations of investment bankers as a visiting professor at Columbia Business School.

In 2008, just months after the housing bubble burst in front of our eyes, Griffin and his wife picked up a $32.25 million co-op on the 10th floor in the Upper East Side. The seller was a private equity connoisseur and Romney contributor named Richard J. Schmeelk. It’s good to have rich friends: with Schmeelk’s help, Griffin was able to grab the place before it was even listed on the market. And, as the Observer points out, this could only mean one thing: “this was almost certainly an all-cash deal.”

Speaking of, have you paid your rent yet?

Tune in next week for another installment of “Mitt Loves N.Y.” Another week, another donor. Democracy can really hurt sometimes.