Why would the "Godfather of Tory donations" fund the Global Warming Policy Foundation?
- 29 Mar 2012, 12:30
- Ros Donald
Earlier this week, hedge fund boss and Conservative donor
Michael Hintze appeared to have been revealed as one of the
anonymous funders of Nigel Lawson's cilmate skeptic thinktank the
Policy Foundation (GWPF). At almost the same time, it emerged
that he is one of at least two climate skeptic donors to have dined
with David Cameron.
Some suspect that the GWPF has funding links to the
energy industry - something Lawson has always denied. And in the
past it has emerged that fossil fuel interests have
funded climate skepticism.
But Hintze's involvement suggests likely funders also sit among
the Conservative party's so-called
Premier League of benefactors. It seems likely to us that
rather than direct financial interest, the primary motivation for
the Hintzes of this world has its roots in a passion for market
deregulation, from which follows an ideological opposition to the
UK's climate policies.
So what's going on?
The Guardian reported earlier in the week that Michael Hintze,
who heads the £5 billion hedge fund CQS, is giving funds to the
GWPF - the skeptic thinktank led by former UK Chancellor Nigel
According to an email from last September seen by the Guardian,
Hintze declined a request for funding from a climate project,
saying: "[We are] fully committed at this time. Furthermore we are
supporting Nigel Lawson's initiative." Unless anyone knows another
climate initiative that Lawson is running, this presumably means
At the same time, there's been a bit of a
furore over cash-for-access to high level Conservative
politicians. The names that have come up in this episode include
climate skeptic donors.
Both Hintze and Henry Angest, the chief executive of Arbuthnot
Banking Group, are among donors whose gifts to the Conservatives
total more than £250,000, and both men have
dined with David Cameron at his flat at Number 10 Downing
Street. Angest also appears to be comfortable funding climate
skeptics - he has given money to the Freedom Association, a
libertarian campaign group that argues for
repealing the UK Climate Change Act on its website, amongst
A prolific donor
Back to Hintze: he gives to a
wide range of causes, including many arts projects. But he's
most famous for his large
donations to the Tories since at least 2006 - reportedly in the
shape of gifts of at least £1.2million and a further £2.5million in
loans to date.
Last October, Hintze's name came up in connection to the funding
scandal which led to the resignation of defence secretary Liam Fox,
after Fox's unusually close business association with aide Adam
Werritty came to light.
Oliver Hylton, a CQS employee also lost his job after it
emerged that Hylton was the sole director of
Pargav, a company funded by Conservative party donors which
paid for Werritty's overseas travel.
Hintze donated money to Atlantic
Bridge, a charity of which Werritty was the sole employee.
According to the Financial Times, CQS donated £29,000 to
Atlantic Bridge in 2010, and in 2011
loaned it £60,000. At the time, we
looked at Atlantic Bridge and its close connections to lobby
groups which opposed environmental regulation in the US - including
a US-based version of the organisation.
Fox also received around £20,000 directly last year from Hintze
and CQS, according to the
Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which looked at Electoral
Commission records. And Fox isn't the only MP to benefit from
Hintze's largesse: Chancellor George
Osborne received nearly £39,000 from Hintze and CQS, and
Foreign Secretary William Hague received £25,000 in non-cash
donations from CQS, the article says.
The Labour party (which might have its own interests in this
matter) has suggested Hintze expects favours in return for his
donations to government. In October the
Daily Mail quoted Labour MP John Mann saying:
"'Michael Hintze is the new Godfather of
Tory donations. He is putting his money behind the key people in
the party very deliberately. People never give money for nothing.
They want something in return, they want influence.
"Michael Hintze is a hedge fund boss and
where he wants influence is over financial regulation. He does not
have to ask Tory Ministers for anything, the act of giving simply
changes their behaviour."
But what benefit could a hedge fund manager get from
funding a climate skeptic thinktank?
It's seems unlikely it's to pursue a direct financial interest.
CQS does have
energy companies in its portfolio, and the fund has a
energy investments team. CQS
Cayman's website, meanwhile, lists US and international energy
groups on the firm's books. But this is hardly surprising for a
large hedge fund, and energy doesn't constitute a large part of
this investment report, for example, describes CQS as
"under-weight" in energy.
Instead a picture is emerging of Hintze as someone who is in
favour of free market policies and is generous with his money when
he finds a cause that espouses the same ideals. Another Mail source
He is an ideologue, albeit one who is politically naive [...].
When someone like-minded asks him to sign a cheque or give office
space, he won't hesitate."
That assessment perhaps puts
this article into context. It describes a garden party at the
Victoria and Albert museum (also funded by Hintze) to celebrate
CQS's 10-year anniversary, at which:
"Nigel Lawson, a chancellor under
Margaret Thatcher, gave a toast in his honor and Liam Fox, the
defense minister and a former candidate to lead the party, greeted
him with a crushing bear hug."
speech at the party, Hintze warned:
"[T]here was still work to be done [...]
especially now that European regulators were trying, in his view,
to destroy the London hedge fund business with their increased
strictures. 'Remember,' he said, 'without the free market we
wouldn't be where we are today'."
If Hintze has a personal relationship with Lawson and views him
as a champion of the free market, it could well follow that he buys
framing of climate change as an ideological battle for the free
market over a subsidies-driven green economy.
Support for climate skeptics from donors such as Hintze and
Angest - who also fund wider libertarian or free market causes -
probably stems from the view that climate policies constitute
overreach on the part of the state.
So if Hintze is really giving money to the GWPF, 'rich
Conservative funds rich Conservative friend' may not be the most
interesting story. But when viewed in the context of a wider
funding network, united by free market views, it makes a lot of