What’s Junior Senator Rob Portman’s connection to the misery facing Puerto Rico?

Let’s follow the money.

Puerto Rico’s Crushing Debt

Puerto Rio struggles with crushing debt and austerity measures that make it worse. Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate is twice that of the mainland United States.

According to The Intercept, one of the main holders of Puerto Rico’s debt is a hedge fund called the Baupost Group. This Boston-based company is managed by Seth Klarman, a billionaire investor. Baupost owns $911 million in Puerto Rico’s bonds.

Hedge fund managers like Klarman often do not individually buy debt, and Klarman does not personally own any Puerto Rico debt. Most hedge fund managers are paid out of fees for managing the fund; indirectly, Klarman benefits from Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.

Klarman Spends Money in Ohio

Klarman is a regular contributor to Republican causes (and sometimes Democratic ones, too). He lives in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

On March 3, 2016, he contributed $100,000 to the Fighting For Ohio FundThe Fighting for Ohio Fund is identified by Open Secrets as a “a single-candidate super PAC in support of Rob Portman (R).” 

In 2016, it spent $9.8 million to reelect Rob Portman to the U.S. Senate, most often by running false and misleading attack ads against his opponent, former governor Ted Strickland.

Rob Portman Benefits from Out of State Super PAC

Rob Portman was reelected in 2016 for a six-year term as the junior senator representing Ohio by spending $26.5 million compared to Strickland’s $10.4 million. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 58.5% of Portman’s funds came from outside Ohio.

Meanwhile, Klarman’s hedge fund investors stand to lose money if Puerto Rico’s debt is forgiven or changed. The current president stated that Puerto Rico’s “owe[s] a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street and we’re going to have to wipe that out. You’re going to say goodbye to that, I don’t know if it’s Goldman Sachs, but whoever it is you can wave goodbye to that.”

Rob Portman, as a senator, may not be faced with decisions to help Puerto Rico with its infrastructure, debt, or other issues. But this connection is interesting, and the money trail is worth noting.