It's rare that a mega-rich political donor returns a reporter's phone call, let alone opens up about his or her personal beliefs on elections, money in politics, and the fate of America. Yet in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Kenneth Griffin, the CEO of the powerful hedge fund Citadel and deep-pocketed bank-roller of Republican causes, does just that. The Tribune's 4,000-word interview with Griffin offers a glimpse into the mind of the modern political sugardaddy—and it's a revealing read.
Most eye-catching is Griffin's belief that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, wealthy donors don't have enough influence in politics today. Asked if the "ultra-wealthy" have too much sway, Griffin responds by saying these elites have "insufficient influence." He goes on:
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.
In a move that would give the wealthy oodles of influence, Griffin says donors like himself should not be bound by contribution limits, though he supports disclosing donations. (The existing limit is $2,500 to a candidate per election.) Griffin isn't the only marquee Republican to call for tearing down contribution limits: Mitt Romney has repeated the same idea this election cycle, saying big donors like Griffin and casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson shouldn't have to give to super-PACs, but should give straight to the campaigns they support. As it happens, Griffin has given six figures to a super-PAC supporting Romney's campaign.
There is much more to chew on in the Griffin interview, which is worth the read.