Video: The freedom to succeed

We’ve all been lectured ad nauseum about the evils of money in politics and how it “distorts” our elections. Leaving aside direct contributions to campaigns (which are still closely tracked, limited, and available to the public) one of the big targets is the unlimited money which gets funneled into Super PACs, in some cases with less clear connections as to who is donating to which campaign. But what about when wealthier individuals decide to take to their airwaves with their opinions, completely open about who they are and paying for it on their own dime? That’s a bit more unusual, but it’s exactly what I saw when a commercial came up on CNN this weekend.

The ad began like so many others, with one individual facing the camera and talking about a campaign issue. I kept waiting for the inevitable picture of either Romney or Obama saying they approved the message, but it never came. What I saw instead was one man, Thomas Peterffy, talking about his experience as an immigrant to this nation and how he achieved the American dream. He also spoke about his fears for what might happen to that dream if the government discourages stories like his. Take a look for yourself.

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. The nation became poorer and poorer. And that’s what I see happening here.

As a young boy I was fantasizing about one day going to America… Making a success of myself.. The American Dream.

America’s wealth comes from the efforts of people striving for success. Take away their incentive with badmouthing success and you take away the wealth that helps us take care of the needy. Yes, in socialism the rich will be poorer. But the poor will also be poorer. People will lose interest in really working hard and creating jobs. I think this is a very slippery slope. It seems like people don’t learn from the past. That’s why I’m voting Republican and putting this ad on television.

I am Thomas Peterffy and I am responsible for the content of this advertising.

That’s some pretty powerful stuff… particularly the final line which carries a much bigger message than the pro forma, requisite canned message from candidates on paid campaign ads. It’s his name. His face. And he takes responsibility.

For the record, Mr. Peterffy is no longer a poor immigrant. He’s listed at number 77 on the Forbes 400 list with a net worth in excess of $4.8B. But he was born in socialist run Budapest. He didn’t even speak English when he came to America, but rose up to a position of great advantage and influence. So… should he be barred from spending his own money to produce and air his own message simply because it relates to the election? And couldn’t any group of like minded people do the same thing to counter him if they were truly motivated to do so?

I don’t know about you, but by the time these campaigns reach the final weeks I’m pretty sick of being blasted with political ads on TV all day and all night. I can only imagine how bad it is for the residents of Ohio, Florida and Virginia. But when I saw this one, I paused and paid attention. There’s more here than some sort of partisan party loyalty and big bucks trying to “buy an election.” Maybe more people on both sides should take the risk and put themselves out there like this. Perhaps more people would listen. I know I would.

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David Strom 3:21 PM on March 24, 2023