The Grumpy Old Billionaires Backing Trump
Policy + Politics

The Grumpy Old Billionaires Backing Trump

© Tyrone Siu / Reuters

Billionaires aren’t like you and me. They’re billionaires. And geezer billionaires, like a lot of other crusty old dudes, seem kind of chronically cranky.

That, however, may be less of an arthritic reaction to aging and more of an occupational hazard of having to say so many times, “No, I’m not going to give you money just because I have a lot.”

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But they take care of their own, even the whippersnappers.

That may be why so many of them are closing gilded ranks around Republican nominee-to-be Donald Trump, who says he is worth about $10 billion – or about $5.5 billion more than the Forbes assessment of his assets.

So who’s on board the Trump Train careening toward the GOP National Convention in Cleveland next week?

Rupert Murdoch. Jerry Hall’s husband is backing Trump, according to several reports, and as far back as April, the New York Post – part of Murdoch’s News Corp empire -- ran a full-throated editorial endorsement. The two Brexit supporters even got together at Trump’s golf course in Scotland after the UK voted to disengage from the European Union. All that after Trump and Fox News battled on social media during the primary season. A détente was eventually reached, and Fox anchor Megyn Kelly, whom Trump had pilloried, sat down with him for a softball interview.

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Sheldon Adelson. The casino mogul, as Trump once was, endorsed the real estate developer and reality TV star in a Washington Post op-ed. “You may not like Trump’s style or what he says on Twitter, but this country needs strong executive leadership more today than at almost any point in its history,” Adelson wrote.  Adelson, a ferocious supporter of Israel and a prominent member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, has not commented on a Trump tweet that many denounced as anti-Semitic. (Trump was strongly defended by son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is Jewish – as is his daughter Ivanka, who converted and married Kushner.) At one point, Adelson said he would spend $100 million to get Trump elected, though it remains unclear how much he has contributed to the campaign.

Wilbur Ross. The Wall Street bottom-fisher told CNBC in June that the Trump “phenomenon” has happened because the middle class and lower middle class have not benefitted from the economic rebound and because they are tired of political correctness. He said he didn’t think that the math behind Trump’s promise to wipe out $19 trillion in U.S. debt worked, but he said Hillary Clinton’s promises are also fanciful and campaigns pledges have to be viewed as symbolic. Last weekend, Ross held a fund-raiser for Trump at his Southampton, N.Y. estate.

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Carl Icahn. If Ross thinks the Trump insurgency is about an angry middle class, this billionaire backer may be one of the reasons the American hoi polloi have been left behind, according to Fortune. In a video endorsement last September, the onetime corporate raider and current “activist investor” -- whom Forbes lists as the 43rd richest person in the country with a $16.9 billion fortune -- said: “I want to speak out now because, I know this may sound corny but I grew up in the streets of Queens. I love this country and I feel so strongly about the dysfunction that is going on both in Washington and the boardrooms of corporate America.” 

T. Boone Pickens. The Oklahoma-born oil, wind power and water billionaire gave $100,000 to GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush but switched to Trump after Bush dropped out. At a panel discussion last May in Las Vegas, the 88-year-old Pickens said he was ready to take a chance on Trump, adding that if it’s a mistake, he’ll be gone.

But not all crusty billionaires are willing to roll the dice on Trump. Charlie Munger, the 92-year-old vice-chairman of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, told Yahoo Finance in May that Trump is a “true believer. He believes in himself,” and in February called him “morally unqualified” to be president.