Commentary Magazine


Is Socialism a Swing State Issue?

One of the most incredible ads so far this election season was produced and paid for not by a candidate, Super PAC, or party, but instead by a private citizen. Thomas Peterffy, a Hungarian-born businessman who made his fortune in online trading, has begun airing a 60-second ad that will be broadcast on major networks (CNN, CNBC and Bloomberg) in the swing states of Ohio, Wisconsin and possibly Florida, he told the Washington Examiner. Petterffy, who has a net-worth of over $4.6 billion according to Forbes, intends to spend between $5-10 million on the ads.

Peterffy’s ad is powerful in its simplicity. He speaks directly to the camera and recounts the story of his childhood in socialist Hungary, using images of himself and the poverty-stricken European nation. Peterffy, a member of the Forbes 400 list and Forbes’s list of billionaires, describes the importance of hard work and the value of respecting success. Interspersed with messages about the dangers of socialism are recent photos of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s protests. While the ad never addresses Obama’s early supportive statements regarding OWS, Americans need to look no further than statements made during the last two debates to understand that the Obama White House values “fairness” over success. Peterffy concludes his ad by stating, “That is why I am voting Republican and putting this ad on television.”

A quick glance at Peterffy’s FEC contributions doesn’t seem to indicate his status as a conservative version of George Soros. In May 2009 he donated $2,400 to Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Roger Pearson (D-CT) respectively. According to the Seattle PI, Peterffy doesn’t have a political affiliated listed according to a public records search. While the majority of his other donations are to Republican and right-wing causes, almost all until this past election cycle are for local candidates in Connecticut, Peterffy’s home state. This election, it seems, has sparked an interest in national politics that was previously unrealized.

Peterffy’s decision to spend the majority of his ad-buy in Ohio isn’t just about electoral politics. Three of the six largest Hungarian populations in the U.S. are found in the state, after New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In an election where such a large population comprises the vote of one of the most crucial swing states in the country, Peterffy’s ad could actually impact the presidential race. If nothing else, it gives voice to many in his generation who have seen the American Dream scorned through the Occupy protests and the class warfare rhetoric of the current administration.