Dem Mega-Donor Commutes to Work on Gas-Guzzling Yacht

Bay Area boater Nat Simons funnels shadowy Bermudan money to U.S. green groups

Photo credit: Lachlan Markay
November 3, 2014

A major Democratic donor and the head of a foundation that finances some of the nation’s leading environmentalist groups commutes to and from work on a gas-guzzling luxury yacht, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

At around 8 a.m. every morning, Nathaniel Simons leaves Berkeley, Calif., where he lives, aboard the Elan. The 1,550-horsepower, 54-foot yacht drops him off at the Port of San Francisco, a block from the offices of the Meritage Group, the hedge fund management company he leads.

About seven hours later, the Elan returns to San Francisco, picks up Simons, and brings him back across the Bay, weaving between Alcatraz and Treasure Island before docking in the Berkeley Marina.

Here's the trip mapped out by Marine Traffic:


While he’s not managing billions in hedge fund assets or commuting over the Bay, Simons is bankrolling Democratic candidates, party organs, outside spending groups, and environmental nonprofits.

Simons has given more than $300,000 to political campaigns and interest groups during the 2014 election cycle. With the exception of a pair of $2,600 contributions to Sens. Susan Collins (R., Maine) and Lindsay Graham (R., S.C.), every penny went to Democrats.

His 2014 political giving far exceeds aggregate limits on campaign contributions overturned by the Supreme Court this year in a decision heavily criticized by Democrats.

Simons’ largest financial contributions to the political left have come not through campaign contributions but by way of the tens of millions of dollars that his foundation funnels from overseas financial institutions to major left-wing groups in the United States.

He and his wife Laura run the Sea Change Foundation, which used its $134 million in assets last year to bankroll groups including the Center for American Progress, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resource Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Energy Foundation.

Simons' boat 'Elan' / Lachlan Markay
Simons' boat 'Elan' / Lachlan Markay

Simons and his wife have provided the bulk of Sea Change’s revenue of late through direct contributions. They and a number of their trusts contributed more than $25 million last year.

The foundation also derived investment revenue last year from a pair of hedge funds incorporated in low-tax Bermuda and Delaware and managed by Renaissance Technologies, the firm headed by Simons’ father Jim, an even bigger Democratic donor.

Jim Simons, whose net worth is $12.5 billion, has given more than $3 million this year to outside spending groups supporting Democrats.

Sea Change did not disclose any revenue last year from Klein Ltd., a shadowy Bermudan company that has in the past made tens of millions of dollars in contributions to the foundation.

Simons did not respond to questions about Klein, whose Bermuda-based attorneys include a director of one Meritage fund.

Simons also did not respond to questions about his yacht, and how commuting to work on a boat with two 775 horsepower engines drawing from a 550 gallon gas tank squares with his environmentalist views.

Simon's boat 'Elan' / Lachlan Markay
Simons' boat 'Elan' / Lachlan Markay

The Elan is currently for sale, with an $850,000 asking price.

Published under: Democratic Donors