Cleanup Tour Stop #9: Shaming Hedge Fund Managers in Connecticut

When you need to shame a hedge fund manager, where do you look? The yacht club, of course! That’s where Carl and a ruckus-raising caravan of activists went to publicly shame the wealthiest in Greenwich, CT–the richest town in one of the richest states—for rigging the system for themselves.

The state of Connecticut is facing a budget crisis and is in the hole to the tune of $3.5 billion dollars. That’s in large part because the General Assembly continues to give huge tax cuts and giveaways to the 400-odd hedge funds and private equity firms that congregate around Greenwich, Connecticut like vultures on roadkill.

One such giveaway is our old friend the Carried Interest Tax Loophole, which costs the state $535 million annually. That’s money that could be used on schools, hospitals, and services – anything but payoffs for rich donors. Legislators and activists are trying to end it, but they’ve been stonewalled by investment and banking interests, who have most legislators in their silk-lined pockets.

The worst of those interests is Bruce McGuire, a hedge fund manager and the head of the Connecticut Hedge Fund Association – and it’s no surprise. McGuire has led the charge lobbying against closing the loophole in the state. He and his 3,000 members use tax loopholes to reap big bucks while the remaining 3.5 million Connecticut residents have to shoulder the burden. As we’ve said in a previous blog, folks who defend the carried interest loophole belong in a special corruption hell (Here’s lookin’ at you, Steve Mnuchin).

At 5:05pm, chanting, signing, and waving banners to the blaring horns and thumping snares of the 7-piece Hartford Hot Several Brass Marching Band, nearly 50 marching protesters shattered Greenwich’s affluent calm. They were organizers with Connecticut Working Families Party, maintenance and property service workers with SEIU 32BJ, representatives of Make the Road, AFSCME, Our Revolution, and one Patriotic Millionaire – and of course, Carl’s Crew, decked out in our luminescent hazmat suits.

 

Protesters marched down the road, parked themselves outside the yacht club, and proceeded to raise holy hell outside the gates. They held signs that said “Tax the Rich,” “Carried Interest = Ripoff,” and a huge banner reading “Stop Hedge Fund Greed.”

 

Chris Tallent, one of Carl’s Crewmembers, condemned McGuire and his hedge funders.

“The finance, real estate, and investment industry has given over $12 million dollars to influence state level elections in Connecticut. That’s a huge amount of money going from those guys to our politicians to get a payoff!” he said. “Cleanup Carl’s here to highlight the fact that these guys are nothing but Corruption contamination on the state of Connecticut, to expose the fact that they’re trying to have insider influence that’s unfair to all of us in Connecticut.”

Other speakers called for the obvious solutions: closing the carried interest loophole and taxing the rich.

Carlos Moreno of Connecticut Working Families Party: “Connecticut needs to replace its regressive tax system with a new formula for fairness, and that means shifting the tax burden to the rich, instead of working class and middle class families.”

Julio López Varona, State Director, Make the Road CT:  “While hedge fund managers benefit from a tax structure full of loopholes that allows them to live in million dollar houses in Greenwich, the rest of the state suffers from a budget shortfall that will leave thousands of working families with an under par education and crumbling infrastructure.”

Eric Schoenberg, a Patriotic Millionaire: “Do you think a fund manager’s job is more important than a teacher, firefighter, or a nurse’s? No? Then why do they pay a lower tax rate?”

Needless to say, we made a scene. Khaki-wearing hedge fund executives drove through the club gates in their Mercedes-Benzes, Maseratis, and at least one Ferarri with deep scowls on their faces. We got a ton of media attention including in the Greenwich Free Press (who loved us!), the Hartford Courant, Greenwich Daily Voice and the Westport Daily Voice.

After nearly two hours of chants, music, and energizing activism, we marched back off down the road, leaving some very shellshocked hedge fund managers in our wake. Now that’s a day at the yacht club that they won’t be forgetting any time soon.

We sent a message to Connecticut legislators: make the rich pay their fair share. If they don’t get the message, they should be warned: they too might get a long and shaming visit from Cleanup Carl and an army of activists to the soundtrack of the Hartford Hot Several Brass Band.