Rich, worried and buying ad time
October 10th, 2012
01:28 PM ET
10 years ago

Rich, worried and buying ad time

(CNN) – He's not running for office. He's not part of a super PAC. He's not lobbying for or against any ballot measures.

But billionaire Thomas Peterffy is spending millions on television ads this election season with one cautionary message: Avoid socialism.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

- Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.

"I grew up in a socialist country and I have seen what that does to people. There is no hope, no freedom, no pride in achievement," he says with a soft Hungarian accent in the ad. "The nation became poorer and poorer, and that's what I see happening here."

Peterffy told CNN he expects to spend $5-$10 million on the ad buy, depending on its effectiveness. The spot will run on CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, and test markets in Ohio, Wisconsin, and possibly Florida.

The one-minute spot, which began airing Wednesday and will continue through Election Day, has no mention of any specific politician or lawmaker. It's simply a plea for an end to what he sees as growing hostility to personal success - and to vote Republican.

"America's wealth comes from the efforts of people striving for success. Take away their incentive with badmouthing success and you take away the wealth that helps us take care of the needy," he says in the commercial.

Peterffy was born in Budapest in 1944 during the deadly Soviet offensive that ended in the capture of Hungary's capital the following year. From then, the republic remained under communist control until it gained independence in 1989.

The new ad features images of Peterffy as a child in Hungary and the impoverished conditions in his native country.

"As a young boy, I was fantasizing about one day going to America, making a success of myself. The American Dream," he says.

Peterffy left his country and moved to New York in 1965, where-without knowing English–he got a computer programming job on Wall Street. He later purchased his own seat on the American Stock Exchange in 1977 and, fast forward a few years, found himself the creator of Interactive Brokers, one of the first electronic trading firms.

Forbes Magazine now estimates Peterffy, 68, has a net worth of $4.6 billion.

Peterffy is not alone in his fear of a socialist America. Some Republicans have launched vocal accusations against President Barack Obama for pushing what they call socialist policies. In part, they're referring to Obama's tax proposal that would ultimately raise taxes on the wealthiest two percent of the country but maintain tax cuts for households making under $250,000 per year.

Obama and his re-election campaign argue they're not attacking success, rather they have a different viewpoint on how to create success. At the debate last week, Obama repeated his signature line, saying he wants to make sure everyone is "getting a fair share, everybody's doing a fair share, and everybody's playing by the same rules."

Peterffy, however, says such policies lead to a "slippery slope."

"I’ve paid $1.9 billion in taxes in my lifetime, now I am being told that I am not contributing my fair share?" he said in an interview.

"When you trash the leaders of businesses, they stop working hard. They go on vacation," he continued. "I even see that within myself, I used to be proud of building Interactive Brokers. I would look forward to work each day. Now I’m being told I’m not doing my fair share."

According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, the billionaire donated more than $60,000 to the Republican National Committee last year and contributed to Republican candidates including Mitt Romney, Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Linda McMahon in Connecticut, and House Speaker John Boehner.

Other billionaires, such David and Charles Koch, as well as George Soros, have played prominent roles this election, spending millions on ads for their respective candidates. But the titans maintain a low-profile, never appearing in the ads themselves.

Asked why Peterffy wanted to personally take out the ad buy–and star in the spot–he said he was concerned that Americans were unaware of the "downside" of a "less stratified society."

"If people want to go that way, I want them to go with eyes wide open, aware of all possible consequences," he added.

Filed under: 2012 • Ads
soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. Sniffit


    $10M...hmmmm...a $10K raise for 100 middle-class employees or maybe some increases in benefits or maybe a few minutes worth of political advertising containing demonstrable misrepresentatiions in hopes it gets me more tax cuts...hmmmm........

    October 10, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  2. Sorensen

    Please Mr. Pefferty – get a life and go study social sciences. You obviously have no idea what socialism is.

    October 10, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  3. Wake up People!

    Can someone please answer this question for me. I know wages have been stagnant for years, most employers don't give more than a .50 raise, yet these billionaires seem to get richer and richer and move the jobs overseas, but none of this was happening until 2009? The job creators aren't creating jobs and it's not because they can't, it's because they can make more money by making their products overseas. What I want to know, how does this make President Obama a socialist??? Why wasn't Bush or Clinton labeled socialist or better yet Ray Gun?

    Why all the scare tactics now? And when did President Obama want to take from one group to give to another?? I'm voting today. I am sick of all the lies being spread about this POTUS.

    And if this guy really wanted to help the economy, use those millions to create a few jobs, and not minimum wage either.

    October 10, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  4. Heli

    Dear Mr. Peterffy...I too came form a socialist country, czechoslovakia is where I was born and grew up. I have been in the USA for the past 21 years, have worked two jobs the entire time I have been here, Paid MORE taxes precentage wise than you, have been paying healthinsurance for myself and my three boys just to get a bill after we go to the doctor, have NEVER been eligible for foodstamps or welfare because I have a greencard. I have NEVER been handed anything but I promise you one thing..I am a proud parent, work hard and go hungry many many times. I embrace where I came from and understand what it means not to have basic like bread and milk..BUT I guarantee you that if I ever become rich like yourself, I would NEVER spend millions on an ad but rather send that money to my home country to help the others I left behind who are still hungry!! Maybe, oh just maybe you should do that as well.

    October 10, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  5. 4moreyears


    Don't forget about Congress and all of there obstruction they have done. Want to blame someone blame their tired asses. The first two years they filibusted and now they have control they are just out right not doing anything. We pay there salaries and all they are worried about is getting the black man out of the White House. People should just be honest with themselves. The man is black and how dare he hold the highest position of the land. I think you need to campaign to get Cantor, McConnell, Ryan and Boeghner out of office. Straight up racist elitist crooks. SMDH

    October 10, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  6. Mack

    Because you can never have enough money. Yes, you have yours, so screw everyone else.
    Why don't you take some of that money that you are wasting and give your employees a raise. I'm sure they probably deserve it.

    October 10, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  7. Mack

    These "job creators" are sitting on record profits! Tax them until they bleed.

    October 10, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  8. Guest

    As usual it is only the wealthy republicans that liberals have issue with...surprise? Not so much. I didnt see any of Obamas rich puppets show up with cash in hand to signify their agreement with the so called Buffet Rule, just their loud most on the left, all talk! But they do love all of their blind followers.

    October 10, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  9. Paul Ernest Show

    Another dumb millionaire. Haven't we heard this "socialism" "Obama will take your guns away" Obama is Anti-Christ". He and the GOP should try something new to entertain us.

    October 10, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  10. Pete

    We're not against people gaining wealth but to those that basically cheat tax wise to keep it and you know you can't take it with you Buffett said that didn't he.This elderly billionaire from Hungary should be proud as I would but quit scaring people the president is no way a socialist,he's just stating with the current tax codes the wealthy have a tax advantage in deductions,plain and simple.Most of your middleclass have very few deductions and are saddled with inflation as well,it doesn't bother the wealthy and you know it!!So quit saying things you basically know nothing about because of your wealth and age some people have blinders on and they're above the fray,try actually working with your hands one day,it might be gratifying!!!Tell that also to Romney who's never got dirt on his hands I bet!!

    October 10, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  11. Mr. Moderate

    You would think that someone who actually lived in a Socialist country would know what socialism is, obviously he does not. With his net worth, I cannot imagine he actually lost money in the 1990s when tax rates were higher than they are today (and are what the Obama administration wants to return to).

    And apparently he has not learned from the past either. The tax cuts under the previous administration did nothing to create the prosperity he talks about, that came when tax rates were higher.

    October 10, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  12. Mack

    When he dies, he'll have a diamond encrusted casket.

    October 10, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  13. BT

    In 1965 the year Mr. Thomas Peterffy moved the the US the top tax rate was 70% and the Capital Gains tax rate was 25%. Obama, is not advocating the top tax rate be that high, but only return to where it was under Clinton.
    Obama is stating that under the system that proceeded his presidency the rules have worked against the middle class and have created a huge divide of wealth. In 2010, 36% of wealth was amassed by 1% of the country. He is working to make it a fair system where a hard days work provides for decent pay, not where the person who works 50-60 hours in management is paid $45,000-60,000, and the CEO, CFO, COO are all paid anywhere from 1 million to 26 million. That's it. He is not advocating socialism nor has he ever, and need we remind Mr. Thomas Peterffy that the financial markets busted and it was government that bailed them out. That is I guess the form of socialism that he speaks to. Funny how when a certain section of the private market needs assistance because they behaved poorly and bankrupted themselves and the government bails them out it is called necessary and right, but when the same is done in attempting to do the right thing by creating a fair playing ground it is called socialism.
    Shame on Mr. Thomas Peterffy for using scare tactics and untruths.
    The great country he dreamed of coming to in the year he arrived had a system in place that was balanced and fair, thats all the Obama is asking, but Mr. Thomas Peterffy wants to call it something it is not to ensure Romney gets relected so he can ensure the system stays the way it is. He says Obama's way will take us down the road to socialism and I say his way will take us down the road to Rome. The once proud nation called the United States of America will crumble under the top heavy weight of the wealthy class. If you don't think so, just read your history books and see what happened to Rome. It is called greed. To bad Mr. Thomas Peterffy wants to scare people for his own gain and won't tell the truth to do it. Wow, is this the new Republican party, lie at will to win?

    October 10, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
1 2 3