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.

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"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. Bill, NY

    Nothing but a very, very greedy citizen!

    October 10, 2012 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. gt

    most american just want a chance to be what ever they can be... look at our president....but alot of folks just want the state to take care of them while they do nothing .....thats call socialism....

    October 10, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I bet his cooks, maids, landscapers, etc. pay more taxes than he does and he's talking about "socialism", greedy old man.

    October 10, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  4. Richard

    I wonder why he doesn't go back to the country he was born in and help them achieve democracy. I call that loyalty to money. He wants to make sure he doesn't lose all those billions. It's funny on how half smart these rich people are. They don't understand that we know they only care about the money they have accumulated. this country will never be a socialists coutry, but its a good code wordd for the rich to discrimnate against everyone who is not rich. Mr. Peterffy Hungary neeeds you, you should make a hasty retreat back to your home country!

    October 10, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  5. OK

    So let's go back to the tax rates we had under Reagan then. What do you say about that?

    October 10, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. proud canadian

    Sad for America.Politicians buying elections,no wonder USA is a mess.

    October 10, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  7. Jay

    wow, what a disgusting disturbing ingrate this pr*ck Peterffy is....far be it for him to see tax policies which favor the rich as basis for increasing poverty among the non-rich ranks....truly astonishing to see this revelation among his ilk, and how wildly disturbing to be so selfish, self centered, and greedy...simply put, fair is fair, everyone deserves equal opportunity and riches in America, not only the rich or richest among us, duh!

    October 10, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |

    OH PLEASE! Poor worry wart rich guy. Like a hungry ghost that can never get his fill!

    October 10, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    Nothing makes CNN happier than billionaire demagogues selling misrepresentations about what actually constitutes socialism in order to protect themselves from making an equitable contribution to fixing this country's problems. Amurika is why this jackhole now has $5B in the first place. And when did he earn it? In large part, he earned it during Clinton's presidency, when the tax rates were 4% higher for his bracket...and he acts like returning to that tax rate would magically dissolve all his riches and turn Amurika into a giant gulag. NONSENSE. He's nothing more than a thankless fear-merchant with a strangehold on his wealth.

    October 10, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  10. Sandy

    OMG, check out the whiny rich guy! They have made MORE money under President Obama and it's still not enough! Get these republicans that favor these hypocrites out of office!

    October 10, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  11. Martha in CF

    Why don't you spend your millions helping the poor instead of on advertisements?????????? The rich don't care about anything but there pocketbooks!!!!!!!!! Pathetic

    Obama/Biden 2012

    October 10, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  12. ABL

    No need to worry, Tom. Democracy is a form of socialist government. Always was, always will be. Therefore, you alrready live in a socialist country. But you're right to be worried. We are quickly moving from a democracy to a plutocracy, which is bad for the vast majority of citizens. The problem is, you have it backwards. You are helping to accelerate the very situation you claim to fear. Wise up.

    October 10, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  13. LegalizeReason

    Mr. Billionaire, don't forget the message of avoiding "crony capitalism", the other end of the spectrum that we are suffering from now.

    October 10, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  14. inand

    What all those Mr.Billion don't understand history is walking his way .USA needs to change, the same policy can not work all the time.We need to adjust,understand the world we are living.There is no big wall to protect any one.We are not the only one on this planet.People every where are thirsty of democracy,freedom and equality.As champion of democracy we need to give a good example.Remember this country was build on freedom,liberty and justice for all.No one is looking for a stupid socialism ,but a balance.My dear Mr billion"le genie n'a qu'un siecle" but to surpass this proverb,our country need to change.Mr.Obama is the beginning of this change.So this is the reality love it or leave it.Thinks will never be the same in this country.Our Fathers give us this country our job is to make it better and better.It's not about money it's about something higher than that, honor ,freedom ,liberty and justice for all.Can you swallow it ? I don't think so.You are thinking only about your pocket,you are thinking about you, yourselves and yours.

    October 10, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  15. Michael Q

    I give the Republican Party full credit for their advertising and promotional campaigns that began the day after the election in 2008 when the first Black American was voted into the White House. They have sold the American public that Obama will be a one-term President by comparing him to Carter, by the birther movement, by using the term 'socialism', by capitalizing on Obama's middle 'muslim' name, by actually calling Obama a muslim, by playing up the term 'redistribution', by negative obstruction in Congress and the Senate, by redrawing electoral districts, by using voter fraud and need for photo ID, and so forth.

    It has been successful and full credit for those master-minded strategists and large corporate donors. But here's the point: it is all lies and the American public has once again been conned to believe in you can all be rich and successful like me if you buy my nonsense. Good luck, America, you're going to need it.

    October 10, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  16. Borderless

    Martha in CF
    Agreed. Can you pass that message along to Obama, his campaign and the PACs that support him please?

    October 10, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  17. WhereIsPalin

    10 million of his 4.6 billion net worth. If your net worth is $250,000 and you could spend that same percent of it on an ad, it would cost about $550.
    If I could get an ad for $550, I'd let him know it's not socialism causing the destruction of the middle class.

    October 10, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  18. Howard

    NOW, it's time for Barack and Michelle to abdicate their throne, so Mitt Romney can begin repairing the excessive damage caused by Obama's terrible policies. Good bye Barack, Michelle, Nancy, Harry, Jarret, and Axelrod, and all the unelected czars ... and, GOOD RIDDANCE TO YOU ALL ... I'm sure you all will find another way to pick the pockets of hard working Americans !!!

    October 10, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  19. Thomas

    He sounds like a happy Fascist guy !

    Pre 1936 Germany .

    October 10, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  20. 4moreyears

    Very Greedy Man. People like this forget that those people that work for him, is the reason he has what he has. SMDH

    October 10, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  21. carlos

    another REPUBIC imbecile, and to think, there are hundreds of thousands of them....UGH

    October 10, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  22. Tracey T

    Great that should be easy. Since no socialists are currently runniing for president in the United States that should be easy to do. Just because he has a lot of money doesn't mean he is very smart.

    October 10, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  23. bbrooker88

    How greedy do you have to be to kick and scream over the potential increase of 4% tax (which was supposed to be temporary in the first place) when you know full well this country has a debt crisis–mostly due to unfunded wars? Give me a break. These people are without conscience.

    October 10, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  24. ThinkAgain: Hey, networks, fact-check the debates in real-time and put it in the crawl!

    Let's review a little history, shall we?

    Fascist Germany conquered and occupied Hungary during World War II; after the war, it was occupied and controlled by Communist Soviet Union. Hungary did not receive Marshall Plan payments after the war, because the communist government refused aid from the U.S. Consequently, Hungary's economic recovery from the war was extremely slow.

    Hungary's economic woes were the result of fascism (corporations uber alles) and communism (no free-market capitalism). The U.S., which experienced a 40-year economic expansion due to FDR's New Deal, was able to not only grow its own economy, but help rebuild Western Europe.

    Let me repeat: Our country experienced a 40-year economic expansion due to the Democrats' New Deal policies and unprecedented cooperation between government and industry. THIS is what President Obama wants to continue; Repubs and this yahoo Peterffy want to turn our country into a corporate plutocracy. PERIOD.

    Obama/Biden 2012 = The only sane choice

    October 10, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  25. Dang

    Are you serious? Give no hope and people will loose interest in work faster. Give indentured Servitude and you have already smashed the freedom we had. There is no pride in having to ask for help when one needs it, neither is there pride in helping one's self.

    October 10, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
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