Thomas Peterffy grew up in Hungary. Despite the fact that he could not speak English when he immigrated to the United States in 1956, Thomas fulfilled the American dream. With hard work and dedication, he started a business that today employs thousands of people. In this self-financed ad, Peterffy warns Americans that the economic freedom which gave him the opportunity to succeed is slipping away, and this will hurt the poor.
By Jacob Bunge
A billionaire Hungarian immigrant plans to spend millions to reverse what he says is America’s slide toward socialism.
Thomas Peterffy launched a self-financed political ad last week that raises alarm bells over what he sees as the poisonous consequences of wealth redistribution and urges viewers to vote Republican.
“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,” Mr. Peterffy intones in his video. “The nation became poorer and poorer. And that’s what I see happening here.”
Mr. Peterffy, who pioneered electronic trading practices in U.S. markets and now leads discount-brokerage giant Interactive Brokers, embodies the rags-to-riches American dream. Born during World War II in Hungary, he spent his childhood behind the Iron Curtain, where he says the country’s national spirit was eroded by a system that took away the drive of its people to work hard, build businesses and create jobs. He left for the U.S. as a young man and today his net worth has been estimated at more than $4 billion.
The video, which Mr. Peterffy said he plans to run on networks including CNN and CNBC between now and the election at a cost of $5 million to $10 million, makes him the latest wealthy businessman to lay out his own cash to gain a louder voice in the political process.
The ad has already enjoyed some success online. It was was the eight most-watched online political video for the week ended Sunday, with about 261,000 views, according to video tracker Visible Measures.
Over the last two years, Mr. Peterffy has contributed more than $60,000 to the Republican National Committee and has given smaller amounts to Republican candidates for House and Senate races, including Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.,) and pro-wrestling executive Linda McMahon, according to the website OpenSecrets.org. He also has donated money to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Mr. Peterffy ends the video by saying that he will vote the Republican ticket in the upcoming elections. He said in an email that he believes voters in November could unwittingly decide the sort of social system that defines the country for decades to come.
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“If 4 years from now if more than 50% of voters are on government support… it is all done and finished,” Mr. Peterffy said in the email. Citizens will lose motivation and the country will grow poorer as a result, he argues, citing his childhood in Hungary and similar scenarios that he maintains have played out in other Eastern European countries and in Cuba.
Mr. Peterffy said he believes any effect on the business of Interactive Brokers, which reports third-quarter results Tuesday, will be a wash.
“There will be people who will not like it counterbalanced by people who will,” he said in the email. “As long as I do not get knocked off or have a regulatory crusade against me I’ll be fine.”
- Billionaire Peterffy Warns of Slide Into Socialism (blogs.wsj.com)
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- Billionaire Thomas Peterffy Publishes Anti-Socialism Political Advertisement (forbes.com)
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