Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the first Republican to officially declare he’s running for president in 2016, is married to a managing director at financial titan Goldman Sachs (GS). But he’s unlikely to reel in much cash from corporate America to help fund his campaign.
Cruz is the darling of many Tea Party groups and social conservatives drawn to his preacherlike ardor. He wants to kill Obamacare, put strict limits on abortion rights, allow states to deny gay marriage, aggressively deport illegal immigrants and abolish the IRS. He was a vocal backer of the 2013 government shutdown, which was a hit with small-government advocates even though it was unpopular with voters and big businesses.
Corporate money tends to favor establishmentarian candidates disinclined to rock the boat. Cruz, by contrast, is a capsizer. "Cruz will struggle to raise the funds needed for an effective run at the presidency," says Republican analyst Boris Epshteyn. "The overwhelming amount of his funding will have to come from grass roots sources."
There's one rich money man, however, who embraces Cruz's anti-government bent: Secretive hedge-fund guru Robert Mercer of Renaissance Technologies. Mercer has reportedly donated at least $31 million to help elect Cruz, which is more than Cruz has raised from other sources during his entire political career.
Since he began campaigning for the 2012 Senate race in Texas, Cruz raised about $18 million, not including any Mercer money. His single biggest donor has been the Club for Growth, a conservative advocacy group funded by wealthy contributors including industrialists Charles and David Koch, private-equity baron J.W. Childs and tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel. The group has given Cruz $706,000 since 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Among corporate donors, the oil and gas industry has been Cruz’s biggest supporter, even though it ranks seventh in spending among all candidates. Support from energy firms is hardly surprising, given that Cruz is from Texas. Law firms came next, followed by the securities industry and real-estate concerns. Here are Cruz’s top donors since 2011:
Robert Mercer. The hedge fund magnate has battled with the federal government, which claims his firm, Renaissance, avoided paying several billion in taxes through artful tax strategies. So Mercer's interests seem to align with Cruz's animosity toward the IRS. Mercer's money will reportedly be split among 4 super PACs, with each presumably taking a different role in the way they advocate for Cruz.
Club for Growth: Amount donated to Cruze since 2011: $706,000.
Senate Conservatives Fund: $316,000.
Woodforest National Bank (community bank based in Houston): $112,000.
Goldman Sachs: $69,000.
Morgan Lewis LLP (Philadelphia-based law firm with significant energy-sector practice): $68,000.
The $69,000 from Goldman is one of the largest sums employees from the Wall Street firm have donated to a single candidate during the last few years. The firm has given money to well over 100 candidates since 2012, but only six got more from Goldman than Cruz — and two of them were Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Heidi Cruz, the candidate’s wife, manages investments for wealthy clients at Goldman’s Houston office, so personal connections may have helped raise the money. (Heidi Cruz announced she’ll be taking a leave of absence from Goldman during her husband’s campaign.)
Corporations tend to spread political donations widely, since they can come from many individuals at a firm, plus their family members. It’s not unusual for firms to donate to candidates of both parties, as Goldman did with Romney and Obama in 2012. Other big corporate names on Cruz’s donor list include Credit Suisse (CS) ($33,000 from 2011 to 2014), Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A) ($33,000), Anadarko Petroleum (APC) ($30,000), Valero Energy (VLO) ($27,000), Koch Industries and Wells Fargo (WFC) ($26,000 each). Each of those firms gave to many other candidates, with Cruz typically snagging a middling amount.
Cruz’s $18.4 million in fundraising for his Senate race is decent for a senator from a heavily populated state. But it’s far short of the $46 million Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has raised since her own 2012 Senate race, or the $31 million Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky raised for his reelection campaign in 2014.
Even with a sugar Daddy like Mercer, Cruz will undoubtedly be an underdog in the 2016 fund-raising derby. The two assumed front-runners, Republican Jeb Bush and Democrat Hillary Clinton, could raise close to $1 billion each, including the super PACs that will support them. And the donors they're targeting already include nearly every top figure in corporate America. There might be a little bit left over for Cruz and other competitors, but that will be just-in-case money: Just in case Cruz pulls a remarkable upset, or ends up handling important corporate matters once the campaign is over and he settles back into the Senate.
This story was updated on June 12, 2015 to include new information.
Rick Newman’s latest book is Liberty for All: A Manifesto for Reclaiming Financial and Political Freedom. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.