...When it comes to the likely Republican presidential candidates in 2024, Wall Street's money is on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis -- not former President Donald Trump, who's been teasing another run at the White House.
A fifth of the $55 million that DeSantis has raised this year came from hedge fund billionaires, private equity bankers, investment managers, and other finance industry donors. Trump, who got less than 2% of his 2020 reelection funds from Wall Street, has raised the bulk of his $100 million war chest from small-dollar donors.
"Ron DeSantis is my favorite man," says Thomas Peterffy, 76, the billionaire chairman of Greenwich, Conn.-based Interactive Brokers, who gave $250,000 to DeSantis's political action committee in April. Although he donated hundreds of thousands to Trump in 2016 and 2017, he says he would rather the former president sit out 2024. Compared with the impulsive Trump, DeSantis "does much more substantial planning," Peterffy says. "He thinks about how he wants to implement things. He gives himself time to think it through."
DeSantis, 43, is a veritable money magnet for superrich donors in finance, according to records from the Florida Division of Elections. Citadel's billionaire owner Ken Griffin tops the list, with a $5 million gift to DeSantis's PAC made on April 30. Other hedge fund and private equity heavies who've made donations include Tudor Management's Paul Tudor Jones II ( $400,000) and buyout pioneer John Childs ($250,000). All three have homes in Florida, while other donors, such as Peterffy and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, live in the state most of the year.
"I think the Wall Street guys love that Governor DeSantis has guts and was willing to keep Florida open, to keep the economy going in our state," says Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist in Tallahassee authorized by the governor to speak about fundraising. DeSantis has reached national prominence by pushing back on pandemic shutdowns and mask mandates.
Notably, the cash influx peaked in the early part of this year, before the delta variant sent deaths soaring in the Sunshine State, undermining DeSantis's case for laissez-faire public-health policies. Florida's cumulative death rate from Covid-19 has gone from average to the 10th worst in the nation. About 30% of Florida's 54,063 Covid-19 deaths have been reported since July 1. The governor initially downplayed the delta surge as media "hysteria."...