Being a billionaire certainly does not disqualify one from having success, or at least having in impact, in the sport of politics. Keep in mind, we’re not talking writing-checks-to-candidates politics, as played by the likes of Sheldon Adelson (Newt Gingrich), Foster Friess (Rick Santorum), and John Paulson (Mitt Romney). Who cares about those billionaire, armchair wannabe’s? Let’s focus instead on the real deals; the ones who go out among the folks; pressing their flesh, kissing their babies, having people scream nasty epithets at them, getting thrown in prison by their opponents, and even getting shot and killed.
Last year IBNLive.com ran this slide show Top 10 Billionaire Politicians.
Here are a few more billionaire-politicians who could easily have made the list, and at least they deserve an honorable (or dishonorable) mention.
Ross Perot Debates Bush Sr. and Clinton – – Image Source Gallery M
Ross Perot is a glaring omission from the IBNLive list. He ran for President twice, in 1992 and 1996. At one point in 1992, when he was still an “undeclared candidate” he led both Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. in the polls. In that same year, he collected 19,660,450 votes , running as the candidate of The Reform Party. His candidacy has frequently been credited with causing Bush Sr.’s defeat, however, that claim is disputed by Joshua Leinsdorf. He writes
Did Perot defeat Bush? First, look at the turnout. Perot got 19,660,450 votes. The total turnout was more than 13 million higher than in 1988. So, even though Perot got a lot of votes, 13 million of those voters didn’t vote in 1988. Clinton ran 3.1 million votes ahead of Dukakis, but Bush received 9.7 million fewer votes than four years earlier. The two party vote fell by 7 million. So, Perot only took 7 million votes from the two parties combined. If Perot had not been in the race, would those 7 million Perot voters who voted for Bush and Dukakis in 1988 have voted for Bush by a sufficient margin for him to overcome Clinton’s 3.1 million vote lead. Those 7 million Perot voters would have had to favor Bush over Clinton by 5 to 2. Or, even if all 19.6 million Perot voters had voted for one of the major party candidates, they would have had to favor Bush by a 58% to 42% margin to overcome clinton’s lead and tie the race. Was this likely in view of the fact that the other 84 million voters were favoring Clinton by 7%, 53.5% to Bush’s 46.5%?
While Michael Bloomberg is the first billionaire to be elected Mayor of New York, he’s not the first to try. In 1989 Rudy Giuliani (not a billionaire) ran for Mayor and lost, to David Dinkins. Giuliani did manage to defeat Billionaire Ronald Lauder in the Republican primary. In his unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination, Lauder spent $12 million trying to convince the voters that he was “the real Republican”. That bought him 36,905 votes ($350 per vote) which weren’t enough to defeat Giuliani in the primary. Giuliani got 75,520 votes. Four years later, Giuliani did finally win the New York Mayoral election.
Bidzina was born in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. In 1986 he moved to Russia and made $billions there. Last October he announced that he was going to form an opposition party to challenge President Mikheil Saakashvili. A few days later he was stripped of his Georgian citizenship, which had been granted to him in 2004. The reason why his citizenship was revoked, allegedly had to do with the fact that Ivanishvili was also a French citizen, and Georgian law prohibits dual citizenship. It should be noted though, Ivanishvili became a French citizen in March of 2010, and the Georgian authorities did not revoke his citizenship until a week after he announced that he was forming a new party to oppose them. With or without his Georgian Citizenship, Ivanishvili is moving ahead with his effort to oppose the existing Georgian government.
Read more about Ivanishvili coalition
On March 4, in neighboring Russia, folks will go to the polls to elect their president. Most of them will probably not vote for Billionaire Mikhael Prokhorov, owner of the New Jersey Nets (NBA). As Dom Cosentino writing in Deadspin.com points out,
The New York Times today strains really, really hard to portray New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov as a serious candidate for the Russian presidency. Never mind that Prokhorov is polling around 5 percent, or that democracy in Russia is about as real as Vladimir Putin’s collection of scuba diving videos.
When Prokhorov first announced his candidacy Billionairechroncles.net noted that nobody is quite sure what’s up with Prokhorov’s campaign. Is he serious about taking on Putin, or is he just trying dilute support from what little real opposition Putin might have?
It doesn’t matter. He seems to have about as much chance of being elected President of Russia (at least this year) as his Nets have, of winning the NBA championship. (somewhere between slim and none)
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also appears to have “done all right for himself.”
The Daily Telegraph reported
Pakistan’s state anti-corruption body claims he has amassed a property empire worth almost £1 billion, with a chateau in France, homes in Britain, Spain and Florida, and bank accounts in Switzerland.
Former Iranian president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s political fortune might be on the decline, but at one time his net worth was estimated to be in excess of of $1billion. In 2003, Forbes wrote this about him.
He played it smart, aligning himself in the 1960s with factions led by Ayatollah Khomeini, then becoming the go-to guy after the revolution. A hard-liner ideologically, Rafsanjani nonetheless has a pragmatic streak. He convinced Khomeini to end the Iran-Iraq war and broke Iran’s international isolation by establishing trade relations with the Soviet Union, China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In the 1990s he restarted Iran’s nuclear program. He is also the father of Iran’s “privatization” program. During his presidency the stock market was revived, some government companies were sold to insiders, foreign trade was liberalized and the oil sector was opened up to private companies. Most of the good properties and contracts, say dissident members of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, ended up in the hands of mullahs, their associates, and, not least, Rafsanjani’s own family, who rose from modest origins as small-scale pistachio farmers.
Last month his daughter Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, was convicted of “making propaganda against the ruling system”. According to The Guardian
She fell foul of the Iranian authorities after the disputed presidential elections in 2009 when she publicly supported opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and later participated in popular protests against the vote’s results. At the time, she was briefly arrested in two separate occasions and barred from leaving the country.
Her conviction is believed to be the result of an interview she gave to an opposition website, Roozonline, in which she blamed regime supporters for harassing her in public.
Hashemi’s criticism of the regime in recent years has led to an uproar among conservatives who believe that – as the daughter of a leading politician – she should back the official line,
and not that of the opposition Green movement which the authorities now refer to as the “sedition”.
Last February, when Egypt’s Hosni Mubarack fell from grace ABC reported
Newly deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his family have a fortune of $1 billion to $5 billion stashed in foreign banks, according to U.S. intelligence estimates — a significantly lower figure than most recent estimates of the wealth accumulated by Mubarak during his 30 years in power.
Some experts have estimated that the Mubarak family has a net worth as high as $70 billion, while others have reported $40 billion, but U.S. intelligence sources told ABC News that the real number is probably much lower.
Then in May, Reuters reported that according to Mubarak’s lawyer, “his net worth was no more than $1 million, and that he had no assets overseas.” The extent or the former dictator’s wealth, or lack thereof, might be the least of his concerns now. The Globe and Mail reported this week.
The chief prosecutor in the trial of ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak said Monday in his closing remarks that the former president should be given the death penalty for the killings of protesters in last year’s uprising.
Mustafa Suleiman said Mr. Mubarak, who ruled over the Arab world’s most populous country for nearly 30 years, clearly authorized use of live ammunition and a shoot-to-kill policy against peaceful protesters.
And of course last, but far from least, is our favorite billionaire politician, or I suppose we should say former billionaire politician, Momar Kadafi. Or is it Muammar Gadafi? Whatever, he was rich and powerful, and now he’s still dead.
How rich was he? The Chriistian Post reported last October that
Muammar Gaddafi, the infamous Libyan dictator, had managed to accrue an estimated $200 billion in assets during his lifetime. However, now that he’s gone, it will prove difficult to recover and distribute that money because a large part of it was in legitimate investments.
This estimate, although it cannot be truly confirmed for months, would have made Gaddafi the richest man in the world.
When casino multi billionaire Sheldon Adelson decided to “dabble” in American presidential politics, by depositing $10 million into a Newt Gingrich SuperPac, it seemed, at least for the week that followed the South Carolina Primary, as if Adelson’s money was going to have a profound effect on the 2012 election. It still might. If Mitt Romney fails to beat Barack Obama in November, a strong argument can be made that the seeds of his defeat were sewn with Adelson’s money in South Carolina. If Romney actually manages to lose the nomination, there will be nothing to argue about. Adelson, with a little help from Newt, (to quote Eliza Doolittle) will have done him in.
Even if Mitt Romney succeeds in becoming President Romney, with a modest investment, at least by Adelson’s standards, the Las Vegas mogul has already bought himself a legacy, being a big time game changer in the business of presidential politics. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, made it easy and legal for Adelson and his successors to spend vast sums on their new hobby, influencing American voters. You can bet your next $billion that while Adelson’s $10 million contribution seems ground breaking today, it won’t be long before somebody else with a bank account almost as big, and an even larger ego, will have us all gasping over his or her $100 million, or who knows?, a $billion contribution, on behalf of a candidate to be named later.
Huffington Post calculated that based on his net worth increase in 2011, of $7 billion; figuring that he works a 40 hour week (Granted, they haven’t seen his timesheet.), Adelson made $3.3 million an hour! So the $10 million he spent on Newt didn’t represent that much of a sacrifice for him.
Adelson has also lost $35-70 million on his “investment” into what is now Israel’s largest circulation newspaper, Yisrael HaYom (Israel Today). Using Huffington’s accounting method, this would have required Adelson to sweat and slave for as many as two whole days, in order to recoup his full outlay for this venture.
Notwithstanding his “losses” on HaYom, there’s no need to have rachmones for Adelson. In Israel, he got exactly what he wanted, the job of Prime Minister for his good friend, Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to Global Post
It was in order to help a future Netanyahu candidacy that Adelson, in 2007, established Israel Hayom(Israel Today) a daily tabloid newspaper that quickly rose to have the widest circulation in the country. The newspaper was founded on the conviction, widespread among the Israeli right-wing since Netanyahu’s first term in office in the mid-90s, that the media held a deep-seated antipathy to Netanyahu.
A much-repeated rumor, impossible to verify, has it that Adelson has told Israeli friends he is happy to lose even $150 or $200 million dollars on the venture.
Conservative estimates hold that for now, he has lost at least several tens of millions of dollars. The paper boasts an extensive and expensive list of journalists and analysts, it is printed in massive quantities and distributed widely and for free, yet it does not display advertising in sufficient quantities to offset significant costs. It is a rich man’s luxury.
Israelis uncomfortable with the paper’s big shadow have bestowed it with a jokey moniker, Bibiton, a play on Netanyahu’s nickname, Bibi, and on the Hebrew word for newspaper, Iton.
In 2007, The Jewish Daily Forward wrote this about Adelson’s HaYom
Two weeks ago, Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., launched Yisrael Hayom, or Israel Today, a free daily newspaper that on its first day was already one of the largest-circulation papers in the country. Adelson’s new paper is drawing questions from other journalists, who worry about the mogul’s connections to Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, and also from the owners of other Israeli newspapers, who are a famously tight-knit club . . .
“Adelson is coming with an agenda,” said one leading Israeli journalist who did not want to be identified, as he is from a competing media company. “He comes with a right-wing political agenda with the interest of making [someone] a prime minister — and that’s Bibi.”
In February of 2009, Netanyahu’s Likud Party won 27 of 120 seats in the Knessest. Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadimah Party won 28 seats. However, Netanyahu was able to form a coalition by aligning with several smaller parties, most notably, Yisrael Beiteinu, which is led by the controversial Avingnor Leiborman; and The Labor Party, which at the time was led by former prime minister, Ehud Barak.
Even Netanyahu acknowledges that he was the beneficiary of HaYom’s unwavering support during the 2009 election. Perhaps without HaYom’s support, Kadimah might have won a few more seats, and Livni might have been able to form a government rather than Netanyahu. We’ll leave that sort of speculation to others. We know for a fact that Adelson’s backing surely didn’t hurt Netanyahu.
In December of 2009, Adelson’s competitors tried to legislate him out of business.
Neal Ungerleider wrote in the defunct TrueSlant.com (partially broken link, still worth looking at)
A popular free daily newspaper handed out in train stations and on the streets may be banned by the Israeli government. Israel HaYom (Israel Today), which has the second largest daily circulation of any Israeli paper, is the subject of a Knesset bill that would essentially ban publication. Israel HaYomis owned by Sheldon Adelson, an American casino magnate.
The problem? A bill working its way through the Knesset would ban foreigners from owning a newspaper in Israel. The bill is sponsored by parliamentarians Daniel Ben Simon (Labor) and Yoel Hasson (Kadima), along with Ofer Nimrodi. The only problem? Nimrodi is the publisher of Maariv, the top-circulating paper in the country and Israel HaYom’s main competitor. The loose legal system in Israel does not currently prohibit foreigners from owning newspapers. The bill that would ban Israel HaYom was drafted by Nimrodi’s lawyer and Israeli television reports that he has been trying to recruit parliamentarians to the cause for months.
In Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer defended Adelson. He wrote
There is only one reason for this pathetic piece of legislation: Sheldon Adelson’s two-and-a-half-year-old newspaper, Israel Hayom, is threatening the very existence of one of Israel’s national tabloids and the predominance of the other. That’s why Maariv publisher and part owner Ofer Nimrodi has recently been seen in the Knesset cozying up to backbenchers. It is also why – after 62 years of bitter enmity, ever since Yedioth Ahronoth’s editor and all its journalists walked out of the newsroom to set up Maariv – the proprietors of both dailies are now making common cause and lobbying MKs against the common enemy.
Pfeffer failed to mention that HaYom doesn’t have its own printing equipment and that it outsources the very lucrative job to Pfeffer’s paper, Haararetz.
This week however, Haaretz seemed to be biting the hand that feeds it (and a some journalistic integrity), with their coverage of an earlier report by Israeli TV Channel 10
A senior columnist for the Yisrael Hayom newspaper is on the payroll of the Prime Minister’s Office, with which he has a contract to “write speeches and lectures,” for NIS 50,000 a year, Channel 10 reported on Wednesday.
Dror Eydar has written about everything related to the assault on various media outlets in Israel, and frequently pens columns accusing the media of being hostile to Netanyahu. Yisrael Hayom, owned by American Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson, is considered to have a right-wing, pro-Netanyahu slant. Adelson has contributed considerable sums of money to Netanyahu’s election campaigns.
Here’s how the Ultra Liberal Tikkun Olam described HaYom
There is no comparable phenomenon in U.S. journalism. It would be as if Gannett had a billionaire owner for whom money was no object in advancing the specific political career of one far-right American politician. Imagine USA Today as a free paper totally funded by ads and the owner’s largess. Imagine too, that virtually the entire newspaper is given over to promotion of the views of Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich, along with other hot tabloidy subjects. Then you’d approach the impact that Yisrael Hayom is having on Israeli politics and journalism.
In 2009 Adelson was interviewed by Jacob Berkman of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency In that interview Berkman asked him about his political involvement in Israel. Adelson replied
What political involvement? I am not involved politically in Israel. Period. And everybody thinks I started the newspaper Israel HaYom purely to benefit Bibi. Nothing could be further from the truth. I started the newspaper to give Israel, Israelis, a fair and balanced view of the news and the views. That’s all. It is not “Bibi-ton.”
Later in the same interview, when asked about why he started Hayom, Adelson answered
I wanted to give an unbiased, untainted, fair and balanced view of what is happening.
Referring to Billionaire Foster Friess who stands to next Rick Santorum, on his right; Soledad O’brien said (for the most part correctly) Photo Source Huffington Post
He’s been bankrolling your SuperPac, and I know you know, by law, you’re not allowed to discuss campaign strategy with him, but you’re really close to each other, does that send a bad message?
To which Santorum replied
No. I mean, Foster doesn’t run my Super PAC. He may be a donor to it, but the person who runs my Super PAC I haven’t spoken with in five months. So as far as the conversations we have, Foster has been a long personal friend for 20 years. And we have spent a lot of time together. But we also know what the law is and Foster doesn’t run the Super PAC and we don’t talk about anything regarding those matters. So he’s someone, again, who is a friend and will continue to be a good friend.
Of course O’brien didn’t say that Friess ran his Super PAC, she said that he’s been bankrolling it. Of course that didn’t stop her from not asking anything that might resemble a reasonable followup question. After all, Santorum had already explained that he and Foster both understood the law, and that they’re just good friends.
Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Ted Turner, are conspicuously absent from the just released, Philanthropy 50, a list of the fifty most generous Americans published by Philanthropy.com. However, the aforementioned billionaires did not exhibit totally scrooge-like behavior in 2011.
Some of America’s biggest charitable donors don’t appear on the current Philanthropy 50 even though they were still writing big checks to charity. The list doesn’t include people who are paying off pledges made in previous years, and in 2011 several of the nation’s big donors were busy making payments, not new commitments. Among those philanthropists are Warren E. Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Ted Turner.
Buffett honored a prior pledge (2006) to donate shares of his Berkshire Hathaway to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The value of the shares that Buffett donated in 2011 was nearly $1.5 billion.
In 2004 Bill and Melinda Gates pledged $3.3 billion to their foundation. In 2011 they contributed $67.9 million. According to Philanthropy.com “The couple has paid a total of more than $2.8-billion toward their 2004 commitment and have about $500-million remaining to pay on that pledge.”
Philanthropy.com also reported that Ted Turner continues to make good on his previous pledge.
Another big donor, Mr. Turner, gave $50-million to the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund in 2011. Mr. Turner made the donation through his Turner Global Foundation, which was established in 2004. The grant was payment toward a $1-billion pledge the philanthropist made in 1997 to establish the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund.
To date, the media mogul has paid slightly more than $900-million toward the pledge.
The late Margaret A. Cargill topped the list with a contribution valued at close to $6 billion. Click here to read how the Cargill Corp.’s sale of its huge position in Fertilizer giant Mosaic Corp. resulted in a windfall for Ms. Cargill’s charities.
The late William S. Dietrich II was “runner-up” on Philanthropy.com’s list. Dietrich, who died in October of 2011, donated about a $500 million to various causes, the largest of which was Carnegie Mellon University.
Among the living, Microsoft co-founder and Seattle sports franchise owner, Paul Allen, was the most generous American. Allen reached into his deep pockets for $372.6 million in new donations. Most of his charitable giving went to The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, which supports arts and culture.
George Soros took the fourth slot. Some would argue that the $335 million Soros donatated to the Open Society Foundations is anything but a charitable contribution. Open Society describes itself as follows
The Open Society Institute works to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve its mission, OSI seeks to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. On a local level, OSI implements a range of initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media. At the same time, OSI builds alliances across borders and continents on issues such as corruption and freedom of information. OSI places a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities.
However, Ron Arnold who is Executive Vice-President of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, views Open Society somewhat differently. He publishes a blog called Undueinfluence.com. Arnold wrote this about Soros’s Open Society
A global network of dozens of Soros entities that have paid millions to overthrow governments in the Soviet Union, Serbia, Georgia, and the United States. The American agenda of Soros foundations has little system and is more a hodge-podge of Soros’ personal interests, which tend to be leftist provocations more than steady programs. His personal attitudes about America are very negative and he regards capitalism to be the major threat to the world, as he once regarded communism to be. Soros makes no secret of his beliefs: he has written several books including “The Bubble of American Supremacy” and “Reforming Global Capitalism.” The man who made it big because of America and capitalism now hates both and seeks to destroy them.
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg rounds out the list of the five most generous Americans. As might be expected of a successful politician,
Hizzoner’s gifts were considerably less controversial than Mr. Soros’s. According to Philanthropy.com
Mr. Bloomberg, 69, gave a total of nearly $311.3-million to 1,185 nonprofits that support the arts, human services, public affairs, and other causes.
The famous, or infamous (depending on your point of view) Koch Brothers, Charles and David, failed to make this year’s Philanthropy 50. Their less famous (and much less wealthy) brother William was ranked #23. Charles and David Koch are ranked by Forbes as the 4th and 5th richest Americans, with each having a net worth of $25 billion. Black sheep William Koch is only worth $4 billion. Philanthrophy.com also notes that David Koch (William’s twin brother) has made their list four times since 2006.
The Walmart Waltons, Christy, Jim and Alice, who are ranked 6th, 9th and 10th on The Forbes List, with a combined net worth of $66 billion; also failed to make The Philanthropy 50.
Back on December 9, Billionairechronicles reported that Poor Old Ron Paul was the only Republican who had zero support among billionaires. That’s all changed now.
The Washington Post revealed today, that while Mitt Romney is still trouncing field, both in votes and financial support, Uncle Ronnie did manage to secure a $900K contribution from Paypal founder and Facebook Billionaire, Peter Thiel. Forbes ranks Thiel #293 in the U.S. and #833 in the world.