Thomas Peterffy, the billionaire Hungarian immigrant who paid for a minute-long anti-socialist advertisement airing on national television networks, has turned his attention to state politics.
Peterffy, the chairman and chief executive officer of Greenwich, Connecticut-based Interactive Brokers Group Inc. (IBKR:US), is financing a TV campaign against a Senate Democrat from a Hartford suburb in a drive to elect Republicans, records show.
“The state is conducting an unsustainable tax policy that is sure to culminate in ruin,” Peterffy, 68, said yesterday by e-mail. He said Connecticut’s 16 percent estate tax is forcing older wealthy residents to move away.
Democrats denounced Peterffy’s contribution to Voters for Good Government Inc., a so-called super-PAC, or political action committee, which the state lists in Fairfield. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling removed limits on corporate and union spending in political campaigns, spurring a rise in activity by independent interest groups and wealthy individuals.
Peterffy, a Greenwich resident, is named as the sole donor to the Connecticut group in a filing with the state election office. The organization plans to spend about $38,000 on TV ads against Senator Steve Cassano, according to the document. He’s a Manchester Democrat who represents parts of Hartford’s eastern suburbs.
The group is preparing to start running attack ads, predicted Adam Joseph, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Donald Williams, a Democrat.
“This could just be the first of many,” Joseph said. “I don’t know if this is going to open the floodgates.”
Peterffy, whose company is the world’s largest online broker, advocates voting Republican in his national spot, which features him and has aired on networks such as Bloomberg TV, CNN and CNBC. Socialism, he says in the ad, is removing Americans’ will to succeed.
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“Take away their incentive by badmouthing success and you take away the wealth that helps us take care of the needy,” he says in the ad. Peterffy is worth $7.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
As for Connecticut politics, Peterffy cited the need for Republican control of the Senate in his e-mail about the state estate tax.
“This policy is not logical, it does not work in the interest of the state and we’ll need a Republican state Senate to reverse it along with other issues, but it will be difficult,” he wrote in the e-mail. Democrats currently hold 22 of the chamber’s 36 seats, and also control the House of Representatives and the governor’s office.
Cassano, 70, may be a target because he won his first election for a two-year senate term in a close 2010 race, Joseph said. He said that Cassano, a former Manchester mayor, is a centrist and a business owner.
Cheri Ann Pelletier, Cassano’s Republican opponent, said she wasn’t aware of the outside group’s plan to air ads against Cassano. State records show that the two candidates have both signed up for public financing of their campaigns, qualifying them for as much as $91,000 and limiting their spending.
When he contributed to Voters for Good Government, he didn’t know Cassano, Peterffy said in a telephone interview. He declined to say how much he gave the group and whether more ad campaigns would be mounted against other Democrats.
“I’m sorry about this,” Peterffy said about targeting Cassano. “I looked him up, and he looks like a nice guy.”
Politics, he added, can be cruel.
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