You’ve read all the B-grade conspiracy theories predominantly from avowed Bush-haters about the influence of ‘Big Oil’ on the Republicans. Interestingly, few ever look at the actual numbers behind recent campaign donations — donations that tell a much more interesting story.

For instance, in the 2004 US election campaign, lawyers gave $137 million to the Democrats while ‘Big Oil’ gave only $21m to the Republicans. Yes, despite what Michael Moore, Jimmy Carter and Richard Dawkins might have said, they are also stronger than the NRA, the Israel lobby and the so-called ‘religious right’.

Halliburton, however, for many on the left has been in recent years the devil incarnate and representative of how ‘Big Oil’ and related companies supposedly run US foreign policy. They have seemingly become responsible for everything from the war on terror through to global warming and Paris Hilton’s DUI.

However, it may eventuate that in the current US presidential election cycle, hedge funds become the new ‘Big Oil’ of American politics.

Consider the facts and follow the employment/money trail of the three leading Democratic contenders:

Chelsea Clinton is employed by a multibillion-dollar hedge fund, Avenue Capital.

Barack Obama’s key fundraisers outside of Hollywood are New York-based hedge fund managers and private equity figures, including Jamie Rubin, son of Clinton’s highly regarded former treasury secretary Robert Rubin.

Then there is John Edwards of “Two Americas” fame who in recent times increasingly resembles the Zoolander of American politics with his $400 haircuts.

Guess what? Despite railing against offshore tax havens it has been revealed that he worked as an economics adviser to the giant American hedge fund, Fortress. Fortress’s recent IPO made instant billionaires of its top management. Their prospectus also revealed that their hedge funds are incorporated in the offshore tax haven of the Cayman Islands.

When asked why he did it, Edwards gave the Pete Townshend response: “It was primarily to learn.”

Maybe Rudy, Romney and McCain have some kind of yet-unexplained link to Halliburton and ‘Big Oil’,  but at this point the conspiracy-mongering about ‘Big Oil’ and the Bush administration is looking very passé.