"The Billionaires Behind Newt’s ‘American Solutions For Winning The Future’"
The same old men that propelled George W. Bush into office in 2000 and 2004 are behind Newt Gingrich’s multimillion-dollar front group, American Solutions for Winning the Future (ASWF). ASWF has capitalized on the energy crisis caused by the Bush presidency to promote a “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” campaign. Although the campaign’s priorities are just a rebranding of an oil-company agenda, ASWF’s well-funded drill-drill-drill message has achieved significant success, with 1.3 million people signing their petition:
We, therefore, the undersigned citizens of the United States, petition the U.S. Congress to act immediately to lower gasoline prices (and diesel and other fuel prices) by authorizing the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries.
The Wonk Room has covered in depth how the “solutions” promoted by “environmentalist” Newt Gingrich: increased offshore drilling, oil shale mining, coal-to-liquids, and tar sands — would be ecological disasters without economic benefit, except for Big Oil executives and their even wealthier investors. That group has likewise prospered richly under Bush, while the rest of the nation falls into disrepair.
So who is behind ASWF? The key funder is right-wing casino kingpin Sheldon Adelson, who has pumped over $3 million into the organization since its beginning in 2006. Adelson is flanked by 56 other such donors who have given at least $10,000. Donors can give unlimited amounts to this 527 corporation, making it an ideal mechanism for the superrich to influence the presidential season. In the first of a Wonk Room series, we discuss the seven right-wing billionaires bankrolling this “non-partisan” organization:
The ASWF Billionaires
Net Worth: $26.0 billion
Donations to ASWF: $3,066,340
The Casino Kingpin
BACKGROUND: The third richest man in America, Adelson made his first millions with the dot-com trade show Comdex, then purchased the Las Vegas Sands Hotel and Casino, tearing it down to construct the Venetian in 1999. Since he took the Sands Corporation public in 2004 and began establishing casinos for the Asian market in Macao, his wealth has ballooned at a rate of “almost $1 million an hour” to $26 billion, mostly in China. A major GOP donor, Adelson sits on the board of the “conservative Republican Jewish Coalition.” Armed with, in his language, a “big pair of brass monkeys,” Adelson “is fiercely opposed to a two-state solution” in Israel. In addition to supplying over $3 million to ASWF, Adelson co-founded Freedom’s Watch, a “big neoconservative slush fund” with ties to the American Enterprise Institute.
“You know, I am the richest Jew in the world.” [New Yorker, 6/30/08]
“We’re the largest investor of any kind in the history of China.” [New Yorker, 6/30/08]
On AIPAC’s support for aid to Palestinians: “If someone is going to jump off a bridge, it is incumbent upon their friends to dissuade them.” [Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 11/15/07]
“Why is it fair that I should be paying a higher percentage of taxes than anyone else?” [New Yorker, 6/30/08]
Net Worth: $2.3 billion
Donations to ASWF: $650,000
The Banana Republican
BACKGROUND: Carl Lindner, Jr., “a Cincinnati businessman with international interests ranging from banking to bananas, is one of the nation’s wealthiest men” and “gives heavily to political campaigns.” He built a dairy empire into the holding company American Financial Group, making giant profits off the savings and loan industry, junk bonds, and Chiquita Brands International Inc., where he “oversaw the payment of roughly $1.7 million to a Colombian paramilitary group.” Using political connections in the 1990s, “Lindner opened European markets for Chiquita bananas,” but “it came at a high cost: more expensive goods for American citizens; the threat of fewer jobs in industries that buy American-manufactured steel; and certain economic instability for Caribbean and African nations and its citizens.”
Net Worth: $1.7 billion
Donations to ASWF: $25,000
BACKGROUND: Making a fortune in Orange County real estate, Argyros diversified into interests such as the Seattle Mariners, the Apria home health-care giant, and the investment firm Westar Capital. Argyros’s real estate company, Arnel Management Co., gouged thousands of tenants out of millions of dollars in security deposits and illegal fees. After raising $30 million for George W. Bush’s election, Argyros was appointed ambassador to Spain in 2001, despite not even speaking the language.
QUOTES: On the unpopularity of the Bush administration in Spain: “It’s not always easy when people aren’t in agreement with all the questions, but they’ll never be in agreement with everything — not even my wife.” [El País, 2/6/04]
“It’s an especially opportune time for exporters, since the U.S. is essentially on sale because of the low dollar.” [Orange County Business Journal, 3/04]
“The bombings, which were tragic in Spain, on that Thursday of March 11, certainly had an effect on the elections in Spain. And that was the intended purpose of the bombings. The timing could not have been better as far as the Al Qaeda is concerned.” [Fox News, 6/23/05]
STANLEY STUB HUBBARD
Net Worth: $1.6 billion
Donations to ASWF: $100,000
The TV Guy
BACKGROUND: The Hubbard Broadcasting Company, founded by Stanley E. Hubbard in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, has become a television giant under the stewardship of his son, Stanley S., who spent the 1980s working to make digital satellite television a reality. He dominates Twin Cities politics and media, calling up news anchors if he disagrees with their coverage, and his corporation, which owns the Reelz channel, is a consistent enemy of unionization.
“You know, blacks obviously are just as good as whites and they need to hear that . . . I think Jesse Jackson is the single worst enemy of the black people. If he didn’t have people thinking they weren’t good enough, he wouldn’t have any followers.” [Corporate Report Minnesota, 1/91]
“If I couldn’t work here, I would do anything. I would work at anything. My wife and I talk about it, if we couldn’t be here, we would be hired help. . . . I would be a butler and she would be a maid. We don’t have a problem, but so many do when it comes to finding good help. I think we would know how to treat people.” [Corporate Report Minnesota, 1/91]
“Well, I think the thing [my father] taught me and taught all of us, more than anything else, was integrity, that the number of the byword in this world is integrity. You tell the truth, you don’t lie, you don’t cheat.” [CNN, 6/24/96]
Net Worth: $1.2 billion
Donations to ASWF: $100,000
BACKGROUND: A self-described “staunch libertarian” who made his first millions as a co-founder of Pay Pal, 40-year-old Stanford-educated Peter Thiel has become a hedge fund billionaire by betting on rising oil prices and investing in dot-coms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. In the words of Wired journalist Alexis Madrigal, Thiel supports a “deep, crazy future, where you would be able to do whatever you want — radical freedom — the Internet as tool to absolutely transform both your body and the government.”
“In the culture, everything’s forced toward a shorter time horizon. As a libertarian, I tend to blame the government for a lot of this, because socialized welfare, socialized health care, and socialized retirement programs all encourage people not to think about the future.” [Reason Magazine, 5/1/08]
RICHARD T. ‘DICK’ FARMER
Net Worth: $1.0 billion
Donations to ASWF: $100,000
The Right-Wing Rag Man
BACKGROUND: Cincinnati’s other billionaire, Dick Farmer owns Cintas Corporation, the “nation’s largest uniform rental company.” With deep ties to Washington conservatives, Cintas has successfully fought environmental and labor regulations for its industrial laundries. However, its continued union-busting, labor abuses and even postal fraud are costing the corporation millions in fees. In the 2000 election cycle, “Farmer gave $721,000 to the Republicans, making him the second-largest individual donor to the GOP.”
“I don’t expect any special treatment when I give my money. All I want is decent government.” [Cincinnati Enquirer, 1997]
“If you think I’m giving money to get access to [President Bush], you’re crazy. I’m just trying to get the right guy elected. That’s all I care about.” [Washington Post, 3/17/04]
Net Worth: $1.0 billion
Donations to ASWF: $10,000
The Globalist Protectionist
BACKGROUND: Milliken is a “billionaire textile magnate from South Carolina, founding member of the conservative movement, and patron of right-wing causes for almost 50 years” — from William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater to Richard Nixon and Newt Gingrich. Fiercely anti-union and proud of his company’s “culture of secrecy,” Milliken also is famously protectionist. In 1994, Milliken funneled over $2 million to Pat Buchanan to fight the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and aid his 1996 run. However, as Ryan Lizza wrote in the New Republic, “Although Milliken is the chairman of the Crafted With Pride in the USA Council, the union and business coalition that has spent millions on ads suggesting that imports are hurting the economy, for decades now he has bought only foreign-made machinery to produce his American textiles.”