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. rosco

    Its America he is entiteled to his opinion, why do demos hate success ??? I mean really look at obummer with la-zy, clueless clooney and his 1% friends (yes hes a hypocrit) all he does is hang with them
    Why doesnt he just do 1 freaking honest days worth of work, we got madonna for a prez (no offense madge)

    October 10, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  2. Joseph B

    The billionaires are certainly expecting a return on their investment to vote Republican.
    I have lived in a completely socialist country and a completely free market economy. Both are scary as can be. We need a happy medium – to claim Obama is a socialist indicates that you have no idea of what socialism is (or are just trying to scare people).

    October 10, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  3. rosco

    Anyone against obambam is always ridaculed, its America, let him have his say.

    October 10, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  4. ThinkAgain: Hey, networks, fact-check the debates in real-time and put it in the crawl!

    Listen up, Peterffy: You and your wealthy cohorts should pay your fair share in taxes. The notion that tax cuts for you creates jobs here at home has been proven to be a lie.

    After all, it's the least you can do for the country that has given you the opportunity to create your wealth in the first place.

    October 10, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  5. Tony

    Well, Mr. Peterffy, you are making enough money in this economy, aren't you? You can spend money buying ads against the ruling party. Try that in any socialist country. Have you noticed that the Dow reached a 5-year high recently? What kind of socialism is that?

    October 10, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  6. ThinkAgain: Hey, networks, fact-check the debates in real-time and put it in the crawl!

    I challenge Peterffy to live on welfare for one month and then report back to us how easy and wonderful that is and how it sapped him of his desire to work.

    October 10, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  7. Peter

    The poor in this country are poor not because of socialism but because of capitalism. Companies depriving people of jobs because they can make more money by having Third World labor do the work means Americans can't make money. Billionaires don't become billionaires because they worked everyday in a factory or a school. There aren't billionaire policemen and women or firefighters. Billionaires make decisions that impact thousands of Americans' jobs and ability to earn money. They are not average Joes and they know nothing of the lives of those who work and hardly make ends meet. Republicans are why the gap between the wealthy and poor is growing. Republicans stop progress. Republicans deprive people of their true path to happiness. The rich fear socialism because it evens the playing field and the 1% doesn't want to lose control of the 99%. The king doesn't want to lose the throne.

    October 10, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  8. Mary Ann

    He is just greedy and doesn't want to pay his FAIR share!!

    October 10, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  9. Rick McDaniel

    He is right. The people of America are becoming shiftless and worthless, because the government is doing too much for them, and they are doing nothing for themselves.

    October 10, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  10. CNN Loud Mouth

    Business owners, especially Small Business owners, hire employees only when they NEED to hire employees. Therefore, lowering taxes does not create any NEED, whatsoever, to hire additional employees. Even if Small Business owners paid ZERO taxes, they still would not hire a single person unless they absolutely NEEDED to. It is abhorrent and shameful for Romney to tell people that he's going to lower taxes so Small Businesses will hire people. Romney, as a business owner himself, never hired a single employee that was not NEEDED - but, he sure let many employees go!

    October 10, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  11. jcguy

    This really doesn't help Mitt having billionaires running their own ads or CEO's building the largest house in America email his entire work force that Obama has to be defeated. They know they'll only get richer with Mitt, but will finally have to pay a little more in taxes with Obama. Poor guys.

    October 10, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  12. BLKMANinAmerica

    This is sicking, America really? Socialism really! and I guess the only people to 'save this country' from Socialism are those with BILLIONS to pay for a known LIAR to be President.................WOW personally I would take my chances on Socialism cause at least people that work will be consider. STUPID!

    October 10, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  13. magyar rock

    "Take away their incentive with badmouthing success and you take away the wealth that helps us take care of the needy" How about you spend some of those billions helping the needy instead of trying to buy an election?? You are an embarrassment to Hungarian-Americans.

    October 10, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  14. ThisSerious

    Give me a break! Social Security, Food stamps, Unemployment Insurance, VA Hospitals, Healthcare that Congress and the President receives; Defense and Oil Subsidies, School Lunches, Infrastructure, Medicare, and Medicaid, and the poorest state in our country Mississippi are all forms of socialism! And yet we still have the highest levels of income inequality. The last four years the wealthy have benefit much better then middle class. The DOW breaks 16,000! The largest Fortune 500 companies are sitting on the sidelines with over $2Trillion in capital (look at Apple), and the top 50 richest people last year combined made $5 Billion dollars! And this fool talks about turning into a socialist country! Really by going from 35% to 39% tax rate! You don’t even pay 35% because of all the capital gains loop holes that you bought through Congressional favors! For the love of…

    October 10, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  15. w l jones

    Well well so you thought Socialism were so bad should grew up in this country about fifty years ago if you were poor white or coiored you would be singing a different tune. Bless.

    October 10, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  16. cocosegura

    Ohhh...C´mon... 1% defending the 1%...

    October 10, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  17. Elephant Memory

    People never lose interest in working hard. What a jerk and I am sick of hearing about the so-called job creators that are making a huge profit and still cutting jobs.

    October 10, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  18. Oh ho

    Mr Pettrfy if you cared so much about American society couldn't you use the money you are Spending on ads to further good social causes, such as cancer research, scholarships to name a few? You are such a hypocrite your motive is simply greed!! We do not want America turning into a third world country full of only too types of people. The super rich and the poor. No thank you. Look at countries like Canada and Austria that have good social programs. Where is the decay in those countries? Their people in general are affluent better educated and healthier than Americans. Come November the answer will be No! to you and that snake Mitt Romney. Obama 2012!

    October 10, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  19. demwit

    Greece is a semi-socialist country. And I love those columns..

    October 10, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  20. GI Joe

    Privatizing profits and socializing losses is not the way to democracy either. Prove you are wealthy and create some jobs instead of hoarding your money.

    October 10, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  21. Bill O

    The Economist (a reputable pro business magazine) has published has recently published articles showing:
    1-Expert economists tend to favor Obama policies (based on a sample of over 300 experts), Google:" The economy: Asking the experts The Economist"
    2-America's stockmarket has gained more under Democratic than Republican presidents, Google:"America's stockmarket has gained more under Democratic than Republican presidents The Economist")

    Folks, this is an important election! Go volunteer, motivate your friends and family (ask them if they have registered/voted), use Facebook. Don't sit this one out, your kid future and yours may depend on it. Republicans have a bad record on governing, but they know how to win elections (and the Supreme Court decision: Citizen United made it even easier for them, Adelson gave 8 millions to conservative PACs so far, that's equivalent to 800000 people giving 10 dollars contributions...). Guys we could be stuck with Romney until 2020, and may be Ryan until 2028!!!

    October 10, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    Another vampire sucking America dry while complaining that the straw's not wide enough.

    October 10, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  23. Dave

    He needn't worry, there won't be Socialism in America. What he labels ":socialism" is simply Americanism. As Washington said, he was proud of the Liberal achievement of America, breaking away from the Conservatives in Britain. The current admiration for fascism and ultra-conservatism only reveals that folks with money think they are Gods gift to America and they will attempt to take over no matter how much it costs.

    October 10, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  24. RealityBites

    CEO to workers: If Obama wins, you're fired

    October 10, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  25. rs

    It is simplt dumbfound that we have to pander to the fragile multi-millioaires for fear that by asking them to actually pay taxes at the same rate as everyone elsethat the poor, whiny dears "may lose their motivation".
    Look- short of taking 75% of their income, they can still afford their mansions, vacations, education for their kids, healthcare and retirement and be just fine. These are all things getting harder and harder for the vast majority of hard-working American- many forced to work for creeps like these-who refuse to pay decent wages or benefits to those who work for them.

    America can't "afford" these people any more!

    October 10, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
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