Hedge fund manager Steve Cohen continued his wooing of national Republican leaders with a dinner Tuesday night with one of the party’s rising stars: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the FOX Business Network has learned.
The dinner, held at the high-end midtown Manhattan steak house, Quality Meats, included a discussion that largely focused on the current national political environment, including the 2012 president campaign, while the two dined on expensive steaks served with a $355 Sassicaia “Super Tuscan” red wine, people with knowledge of the matter told FOX Business.
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Cohen had been among Wall Street’s most prominent supporters of Democratic political candidates, giving heavily to Congressional Democrats and President Obama during the run-up to the 2009 campaigns. But more recently, people who know him say he is switching sides; campaign contribution records show that SAC Capital employees and Cohen are now contributing more to Republicans than Democrats.
That follows a general trend in the hedge fund business where many executives are now overwhelmingly supporting Republicans over Democrats, records show.
The timing of Cohen’s switch along with the rest of the hedge fund business, of course, coincides with new Democrat-sponsored financial reform regulations coming out of Washington, and the president’s increasingly harsh class-warfare rhetoric that often targets rich Wall Street traders. While the new regulators are largely focused on banks, legal experts believe the rules and their prohibitions against trading are written so broadly they could be extended to hedge funds.
Cohen has made no secret of his disdain for some of the policies sponsored by Democrats, and their harsh attacks on Wall Street. As other prominent banking executives like JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) chief Jamie Dimon have criticized the president’s policies and rhetoric, White House officials have been scrambling to assure political supporters on Wall Street that the president will scale back on his attacks as the 2012 campaign progresses.
Cohen may have other reasons to be seen in public with a prominent Republican leader: His hedge fund SAC Capital faces increased scrutiny from both federal regulators and prosecutors in their wide-ranging insider-trading investigation. Both current and former SAC traders have been snared on the crackdown, and sources close to the probe say investigators are also focusing on Cohen’s own trading account, though no charges have been filed against either Cohen or his firm.
Christie served as the US Attorney from New Jersey before becoming governor in 2010. A spokesman for Christie had no comment on the dinner. A spokesman for SAC Capital had no comment on the dinner; in the past he has said that Cohen has done nothing wrong.
Political analyst Hank Sheinkopf says both men have lots to gain from each other; Christie has been raising money for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, and is seen as a possible Republican presidential contender. Cohen, meanwhile, benefits from being seen in public with a prominent politician, and former US Attorney, particularly amid the investigations into his company.
“If you’re a big player on Wall Street you have to cozy up to the big political players,” Sheinkopf said. “Chris Christie is raising money for Romney, and you could end up with Christie on the presidential ticket in 2012 if Romney doesn’t win” this year.”