In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Ken Griffin, a hedge fund billionaire who is one of the 400 richest people in America, argued that the ultrawealthy in this country don’t have enough influence over politics. Griffin went on to say that the ultrawealthy “have a duty” to step forward and save the U.S. from what he says is a drift toward Soviet-style state control of the economy:
Q. I’m going to come back to this. But I want to touch on two more areas first. What do you think in general about the influence of people with your means on the political process? You said shame on the politicians for listening to the CEOs. Do you think the ultrawealthy have an inordinate or inappropriate amount of influence on the political process?
A. I think they actually have an insufficient influence. Those who have enjoyed the benefits of our system more than ever now owe a duty to protect the system that has created the greatest nation on this planet. And so I hope that other individuals who have really enjoyed growing up in a country that believes in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — and economic freedom is part of the pursuit of happiness — (I hope they realize) they have a duty now to step up and protect that. Not for themselves, but for their kids and for their grandchildren and for the person down the street that they don’t even know …
At this moment in time, these values are under attack. This belief that a larger government is what creates prosperity, that a larger government is what creates good (is wrong). We’ve seen that experiment. The Soviet Union collapsed. China has run away from its state-controlled system over the last 20 years and has pulled more people up from poverty by doing so than we’ve ever seen in the history of humanity. Why the U.S. is drifting toward a direction that has been the failed of experiment of the last century, I don’t understand. I don’t understand.
He also complained that this is a “very sad moment in [his] lifetime,” citing the now-familiar Republican charge that the Obama administration has “embraced class warfare.”
Griffin is the founder and CEO of Citadel Asset Management, a Chicago-based hedge fund. In recent years, has lavished some of his estimated $3 billion net worth on a wide variety of right-wing groups and Republican candidates.
He and his wife contributed $150,000 to the pro-Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future, joining nine other billionaires who contributed a total of $2.8 million to the group during the second half of last year. Griffin has also contributed the maximum allowable amount directly to Mitt Romney’s campaign, $550,000 to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC, $1.5 million to the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, $560,000 to the Republican Governors Association, $38,300 to the Republican National Committee, $72,900 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, $30,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the $5,000 maximum to Paul Ryan (R-WI)’s Prosperity PAC, and $4,000 to Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) Every Republican is Crucial PAC.
While Griffin has contributed to some Democratic candidates for federal office in the past (mostly those from his home state of Illinois or who sit on congressional committees overseeing taxation and the financial industry), over the two most recent election cycles he has given just $2,500 to one Democrat while contributing $55,300 to Republicans candidates, including Sens. Scott Brown (MA), Marco Rubio (FL), Dan Coats (IN), Pat Toomey (PA), and Mark Kirk (IL) and Reps. Ryan, Cantor, and Sean Duffy (WI).
Griffin said that ultrawealthy individuals like himself should “absolutely” be allowed to donate unlimited amounts to Super PACs and political campaigns, citing “rules that encourage transparency.” However, he added that he views actual transparency with “trepidation,” noting a successful campaign that progressives launched against Target after it made a post-Citizens United corporate contribution to a group supporting an extreme anti-gay Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota.