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October 1, 2014

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Politics:

Who is Nevada’s top federal campaign contributor in 2014 election? (Hint: It’s not Sheldon Adelson or Steve Wynn)

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Staff

A mystery man, Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.

Nevada's top federal campaign contributor isn't a casino mogul or a real estate developer. In fact, it's probably someone you've never even heard of.

Cary Katz, who founded a student loan company in Las Vegas, and his wife, Jacqueline, have donated $860,800 during the 2014 election cycle, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics of individual donors.

That's more than twice the amount given by Nevada's next biggest donors: Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands CEO and chairman, and his wife, Miriam, donated $391,000. Hotel tycoon Steve Wynn and his ex-wife, Elaine, donated $390,400.

The group lists Steve Wynn with his former wife, Elaine, even though the two filed for divorce in 2009 and Wynn has since remarried Andrea Hissom.

Despite his outsized political spending, Katz is a little known figure in his hometown, especially when compared with the bright lights that follow the casino magnates also on the list.

Katz, who did not respond to two messages from the Sun, is board chairman of the College Loan Corp., a student lender he founded in 1999. The company, headquartered in Summerlin, manages $10 billion in student loan assets and has more than 800,000 student borrowers. It's the seventh largest student loan company in the United States, according to the company's website.

Katz is best known as a poker player. He's won $1.7 million in World Series of Poker tournaments since 2009, including $1.3 million this year. His World Series of Poker profile says he plays in "high roller poker tournaments around the globe." In one ESPN clip that's been played 6.7 million times, Katz and Connor Drinen both drew pocket aces during a $1 million buy tournament. (Watch the video below.)

Katz is also chairman of Stop Child Predators and served as president of St. Gabriel Catholic School. He and his wife have six children.

The Katzes, Adelsons and Wynns are the only Nevadans on the top 100 list compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. The group analyzed contributions to federal candidates, parties, political action committees and other federal political organizations.

Katz ranked No. 36 nationally, Adelson ranked No. 83 and Wynn No. 84.

Among contributions that could be categorized by party, all three donated almost exclusively to Republicans or conservative causes. The one exception: Wynn gave $5,200 to Democrats or liberal causes.

Sun Library Services Specialist Rebecca Clifford-Cruz and sports reporter Case Keefer contributed to this report.

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