Person

Deborah Simon

Nationality:

American

Born:

1956

Occupation(s):

Heiress & Democratic Donor

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Deborah Simon is the daughter of billionaire shopping mall magnate Melvin Simon. She is a philanthropist and left-of-center political donor. 1 She is a major donor to the Democratic party, donating to Democratic-aligned political committees such as the Senate Majority PAC, the Mainstream Democrats PAC, Planned Parenthood Votes, and Swing Left. 2

Background

Deborah Simon is the daughter of Melvin Simon, shopping mall magnate and co-owner of the Indiana Pacers. Melvin Simon began buying real estate and leasing it in the 1950s and founded Simon Property Group with his brother Herb. 3 He developed shopping malls around the world, including the Mall of America. At the time of his death in 2009, Simon Property Group owned 386 properties with annual sales over $60 billion. 4

Deborah Simon’s father married his second wife, Bren, when she was a teenager. Bren was a former member of the Democratic National Committee. The Simon family donated to many Democrats, including President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, and John Kerry, former Secretary of State and “climate czar” in the Biden administration. 5

In 2009, Deborah Simon sued Bren after Melvin died. Melvin had changed his will seven months before his death, increasing the amount he left for Bren while decreasing the amounts to his children, including Deborah. Deborah claimed that Bren coerced him into changing his will and that by this time her father suffered from dementia and was incompetent. The family, with a net worth of more than $5 billion at the time, ended up settling out of court in 2012. 6 7 As of 2014, Forbes listed the Simon family’s net worth as $6.8 billion. 8

Deborah Simon worked at Simon Property Group, moving up from an assistant to a senior vice president over her 25-year career there. In 1996, she left temporarily to establish the Simon Youth Foundation. 9

Deborah Simon lives in Indiana and is a large contributor to Democrats and to Jewish causes, such as the Anti-Defamation League and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 10

Philanthropy

Deborah Simon is chairperson of the Simon Youth Foundation, which was established by a group of Simon Property Group employees in 1998. It supports 23 Simon Youth Academies in the United States. Simon Property Group has been its largest donor. 11

She donated $100 million to her old high school, Mercersburg Academy, and supported her local chapter of Planned Parenthood through a $7 million campaign. 12 Her donation to Mercersburg Academy was the largest in its history. Simon had attended the school in her junior and senior high school years as a boarding student. 13

Political Donations

Over the years, Deborah Simon has donated almost $14 million to the Senate Majority PAC to support Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate. 14 She is the largest donor to the Mainstream Democrats PAC, donating $2 million as of May 2024. This super PAC was established by LinkedIn founder and left-of-center political activist Reid Hoffman and has ties to the pro-Israel advocacy group American Israel Public Affairs Committee. 15

Simon is a long-time opponent of former Vice President Mike Pence who was governor of Simon’s home state of Indiana from 2013 to 2017. Simon opposed Pence primarily because of his anti-abortion and pro-religious-freedom policies. She is also a strong opponent of former President Donald Trump. 16

Following the election of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in 2016, Simon increased her donations to Democratic organizations, including the Democratic National Committee, American Bridge 21st Century, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. 17

In 2018, Simon was one of the top individual donors to Democratic candidates at the federal level. She ranked as the 14th highest donor, claiming it was because of her desire to remove President Donald Trump from office in the 2020 election.  In 2019, she donated to the Indiana Young Democrats and was a title sponsor at the Young Democrats of America National Convention, which was  hosted in Indianapolis. 18

Shelia Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, described Simon and her sister as “mini-banks” because they “are the key sources of campaign cash.” Indiana political analyst Brian Howey claims they have a large influence with the Democratic Party, both in Indiana and nationwide. 19

Simon is the largest donor to the left-wing advocacy group Media Matters which was founded in 2004 by Democratic activist David Brock. 20 According to the Washington Free Beacon, Simon has “pledged to do everything in her power to defeat former President Donald Trump and  has contributed $53 million to Democratic politicians and groups since 2018.” 21

Simon’s major donations in 2024 included $500,000 to the Mainstream Democrats PAC, $150,000 to the Indiana House Democratic Caucus, $500,000 to Planned Parenthood Votes, $250,000 to Swing Left, $289,100 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and $150,000 to the Standing Strong PAC in support of U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). 22 23 She has donated to several individual Democrats in 2024, including U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). 24

References

  1. Andrew Kerr. “Democratic Megadonors Bankroll Media Matters, Leaked Donor List Shows.” The Washington Free Beacon. January 4, 2024. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://freebeacon.com/democrats/democratic-megadonors-bankroll-media-matters-leaked-donor-list-shows/
  2. “Deborah Simon.” OpenSecrets – Donors. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.opensecrets.org/search?order=desc&q=deborah+simon&sort=D&type=donors
  3. Maggie Severns. “Shopping-mall scion sisters have a beef with Pence and millions for Democratic candidates.” Politico. September 19, 2018. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/09/19/simon-sisters-donations-democrats-828606
  4. Douglas Martin. “Melvin Simon, Pioneer of the Suburban Mall, Dies at 82.” The New York Times. September 18, 2009. https://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/business/18simon.html
  5. “Simon sisters among top political donors nationwide.” IBJ Indianapolis Business Journal. March 8, 2018. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.ibj.com/articles/67913-simon-sisters-among-top-political-donors-nationwide
  6. Katia Savchuk. “Family Misfortunes: 8 of America’s Richest Clans And Their Bitter Fights Over Billions.” Forbes. July 8, 2014. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.forbes.com/sites/katiasavchuk/2014/07/08/family-misfortunes-8-of-americas-richest-clans-and-their-bitter-fights-over-billions/
  7. Maggie Severns. “Shopping-mall scion sisters have a beef with Pence and millions for Democratic candidates” Politico. September 19, 2018. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/09/19/simon-sisters-donations-democrats-828606
  8. “Meet The Top 10 Ultra-Wealthy Americans Funding The 2020 Presidential Elections So Far.” Business Insider. November 22, 2019. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.businessinsider.in/slideshows/miscellaneous/meet-the-top-10-ultra-wealthy-americans-funding-the-2020-presidential-elections-so-far/slidelist/72188399.cms
  9. Brittany Miller. “Philanthropist Deborah Simon giving $100 million to Mercersburg Academy.” Penn Live. October 10, 2013. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.pennlive.com/midstate/2013/10/philanthropist_deborah_simon_g.html
  10. “Educating New Generations: Deborah Simon.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. July 30, 2020. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://medium.com/memory-action/educating-new-generations-deborah-simon-ab4c0c3d1b4
  11. “Who We Are.” Simon Youth Foundation. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://syf.org/who-we-are/
  12. Maggie Severns. “Shopping-mall scion sisters have a beef with Pence and millions for Democratic candidates.” Politico. September 19, 2018. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/09/19/simon-sisters-donations-democrats-828606
  13. Brittany Miller. “Philanthropist Deborah Simon giving $100 million to Mercersburg Academy.” Penn Live. October 10, 2013. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.pennlive.com/midstate/2013/10/philanthropist_deborah_simon_g.html
  14. “Deborah Simon.” OpenSecrets – Donors. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.opensecrets.org/search?order=desc&q=deborah+simon&sort=D&type=donors
  15. Donald Shaw, David Moore. “Super PACs With Alleged AIPAC Ties Intervene in Oregon Dem Primary.” Sludge. May 6, 2024. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://readsludge.com/2024/05/06/super-pacs-with-alleged-aipac-ties-intervene-in-oregon-dem-primary/
  16. Ron Kampeas. “Meet the leading Jewish political donors in this US election cycle.” The Times of Israel. September 25, 2020. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.timesofisrael.com/meet-the-leading-jewish-political-donors-in-this-us-election-cycle/
  17. Maggie Severns. “Shopping-mall scion sisters have a beef with Pence and millions for Democratic candidates.” Politico. September 19, 2018. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/09/19/simon-sisters-donations-democrats-828606
  18. Lindsey Erdody. “Deb Simon—who will ‘do anything’ to beat Trump—donates $100k to young Democrats.” IBJ – Indianapolis Business Journal. July 18, 2019. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.ibj.com/articles/deb-simon-willing-to-do-anything-to-oust-trump-in-2020
  19. “Simon sisters among top political donors nationwide.” IBJ Indianapolis Business Journal. March 8, 2018. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.ibj.com/articles/67913-simon-sisters-among-top-political-donors-nationwide
  20. Joseph A. Wulfsohn. “Media Matters Democrat mega-donors ‘mistakenly’ revealed in court filing: report.” New York Post. January 5, 2024. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://nypost.com/2024/01/05/news/media-matters-democrat-mega-donors-mistakenly-revealed-in-court-filing-report/
  21. Andrew Kerr. “Democratic Megadonors Bankroll Media Matters, Leaked Donor List Shows.” The Washington Free Beacon. January 4, 2024. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://freebeacon.com/democrats/democratic-megadonors-bankroll-media-matters-leaked-donor-list-shows/
  22. “PAC Profile: Standing Strong PAC.” OpenSecrets. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.opensecrets.org/political-action-committees-pacs/pac-to-the-future/C00832691/summary/2024
  23. “Deborah Simon.” OpenSecrets – Donors. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.opensecrets.org/search?order=desc&q=deborah+simon&sort=D&type=donors
  24. “Deborah Simon.” OpenSecrets – Donors. Accessed June 29, 2024. https://www.opensecrets.org/search?order=desc&q=deborah+simon&sort=D&type=donors
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