Rep. Paul Ryan Wines with Major Donor, Koch Attendee

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Susan Crabtree at TPM reported over the weekend that Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) $350-a-bottle wine summit last week included Cliff Asness, a wealthy hedge fund manager from Connecticut. But Asness, the co-founder of AQR Capital, is more than just an angry millionaire—he’s a major conservative political player.

Asness was listed as an attendee at retreats held by the billionaire conservative Koch Brothers, according to the document obtained by ThinkProgess last year. Charles and David Koch bring people together at these events to, "review strategies for combating the multitude of publoic policies that threaten to destry America as we know it." In January, Ryan spoke at the Koch’s California retreat.

If Asness attended that California meeting last winter, this scenario plays out like a flow chart of how these Koch gatherings are supposed to work.

  • On October 25, 2010, both the co-founder of AQR and Asness’s brother (General Counsel at AQR), donated $5,000 to Ryan’s political action committee (PAC). On November 4th, Asness and his wife donated $7,666 total to Ryan’s PAC along with another co-founder who gave $5,000. These donations are the first records of Asness or his associates donating to Ryan’s campaign.
  • With the skids greased, it’s possible that Asness and Ryan were able to meet and chat at the January event. If Asness attended previous events, it’s likely he went to this one too.
  • Five months later, Ryan and Asness sat down to drink two $350 bottles of wine. They were joined by University of Chicago Professor John Cochrane, the AQR Capital Management Distinguished Service Professor of Finance.

Asness is a major political donor, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He was a bundler for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign and he and his wife have donated over $400,000 in campaign contributions to candidates, parties, and PACs over the years. In 2009, he made two $25,000 donations to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, according to the National Institute on State Money in Politics.

In his letter to invited guests last year, Charles Koch wrote that to battle the “threat of government over-spending and to change the balance of Congress in November,” participants must be “committed to an unprecedented level of support.”

For Ryan, that meant campaign cash. For Asness, it meant buying access to House leadership. For us, it’s just another example that shows politics no longer works for everyday people.