Offshore Tax Haven Leak Implicates Seven-Figure Pro-Clinton Donor

Donald Sussman listed as director of Virgin Islands-based shell company

Donald Sussman
Donald Sussman / AP

One of the Democratic Party’s largest 2016 donors directs an offshore entity named in a massive leak of information on foreign corporations used by the world’s wealthiest people to shield their assets.

Hedge fund manager Donald Sussman has donated more than $7 million since last year to Democratic candidates, party organs, and outside spending groups supporting Hillary Clinton’s Democratic presidential bid.

Sussman, until recently the husband of Rep. Chellie Pingree (D., Maine), is the fifth most prolific donor to Democrats this cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

According to information leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Sussman is a director of Simply Radiant Ltd., a company based in the British Virgin Islands.

Sussman’s firm, Paloma Partners, is a Simply Radiant shareholder, as are Paloma subsidiaries Golden Mountain Partners and Sunrise Partners, ICIJ data show. Paul Wolansky, a former managing director at the Paloma Partners, is listed as a Simply Radiant director.

An individual named Harry S. Campbell is also listed as a director. He was previously a director of Cathay Investment Fund Ltd., in which Paloma is a major shareholder.

It was not immediately clear what exactly Simply Radiant is or does. Paloma did not respond to requests for additional information on the company.

Its ties to Simply Radiant were revealed through a leak of information from the Singapore-based corporate law and accounting firm Portcullis TrustNet, which maintains Simply Radiant’s records.

The release, which ICIJ dubbed "Offshore Leaks," exposed thousands of companies registered by, and often incorporated at, one of TrustNet’s seventeen global offices.

Offshore Leaks was a predecessor to the more recent Panama Papers leak, which has exposed additional information about how the world’s wealthiest use offshore corporations to shield their involvement in offshore tax havens.

"The main product that TrustNet sells can be summarized in one word — secrecy," according to ICIJ.

"The firm helps ensure names, finances, business interests and political links remain hidden. It does this using a variety of methods, such as creating maze-like layers of companies and financial trusts in multiple countries and in many cases helping clients open overseas bank accounts in the names of anonymous companies rather than in their own names."

The use of offshore tax havens has become a rallying cry for Democrats such as presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who derides companies that use them to shield assets from U.S. tax collectors.

"Hillary will crack down on companies that shift profits overseas to avoid paying their fair share in U.S. taxes," Clinton’s campaign website says.

Sussman previously faced scrutiny over his apparent efforts to claim tax breaks in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Despite that controversy and his ties to TrustNet’s network of offshore corporate entities, he has been one of the most prolific supporters of groups backing Clinton’s candidacy.

According to Federal Election Commission records, Sussman has donated $4 million to pro-Clinton Super PAC Priorities USA Action; $1.5 million to Women Vote, a pro-Clinton Super PAC affiliated with the group Emily’s List; and $100,000 to Correct the Record, a Super PAC coordinating directly with Clinton’s campaign.

Sussman has given another $600,000 to various arms of the Democratic Party, and smaller sums to a host of Democratic congressional candidates. They included the maximum legal contribution to Pingree, who announced last year that she and Sussman were seeking a divorce.

Sussman is a board member of the Center for American Progress, a pro-Clinton group that has heavily criticized corporations and individuals implicated in ICIJ leaks. He is also affiliated with the Democracy Alliance donor club, which helps finance CAP.

Other donors to Clinton and the groups supporting her have also been implicated in the Panama Papers and related leaks. Jim Simons, another hedge fund manager and seven-figure Priorities USA donor, has benefitted from the types of tax schemes identified by the leaks.

The Podesta Group, a lobbying firm founded by Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and his brother, a Clinton campaign fundraiser, represents the U.S. arm of a Russian bank implicated in the Panama Papers.