America’s top political donors do not typically say much to the press. They are rich. They are busy. And they see little upside in discussing their political views.
Yet in this gilded era of massive political spending, the country’s largest donors have a new status in national politics that is fueling intense curiosity about who is behind these six- and seven-figure checks to support candidates for elected office.
Seth Klarman, New England’s biggest donor in the 2014 federal elections, mostly supports Republican causes and candidates these days. In an exclusive interview with the Globe, he discussed a wide range of issues connected to his political giving, which has surged since the 2010 Citizens United decision that paved the way for fewer restrictions on donations.
Here are some of the topics covered, and Klarman’s responses.
On life philosophy
“An individual can choose to be a bystander, a perpetrator, a rescuer, or ultimately an upstander. And that is how I think about myself and my life. I don’t want to be a bystander. I don’t want anyone to ever say Seth Klarman was a bystander as the world was getting worse.”
On the next generation
“We are not living up to the standard by which I think my generation should be held. I believe everyone should leave the world better than they found it.”
“Our generation is leaving the world buried in debt, fundamentally unsafe, facing significant threats to our security, leaving the atmosphere dirtier, leaving the public school system weaker, the infrastructure crumbling, and Washington increasingly dysfunctional. We haven’t really faced our problems or invested in the future. And that’s not much of a favor to or appropriate for us to do to the next generation.”
On political parties
“I think that people who blindly adhere to parties are kind of selling themselves short and giving away the right to be independent thinkers.”
On social issues
“I’m praying the Supreme Court rules the right way on gay marriage to help defuse it as a political issue. I’m sad that our country and our political debate gets bogged down on social issues like this which are clearly far less important to the future of the country than our financial issues, national security issues, and immigration reform, which is a real priority.”
On gay rights
“I will continue to fund or support Republican candidates who come out for gay marriage because I think they must be protected from partisan voters who might be unhappy with that choice. I see it as a very courageous choice.”
On funding super PACs
“Nobody lines up perfectly with my views [on issues such as gay rights or a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.] I don’t believe I will ever have perfect alignment with one party.’’
On entitlements, taxes
“We must get off the idea that the government has unlimited money to do unlimited things for us and get on the idea that we may all have to sacrifice in tough times. If carried interest [a tax loophole that favors hedge funds] goes away, that would be fine with me, particularly if that were changed as part of a bigger deal to get our affairs in order.”
On nuclear talks with Iran
“I’m a fan of a good deal with Iran. I worry that we might come up with not just a mediocre deal, but maybe a bad deal that would give Iran the ability to eventually develop nuclear weapons.”
On Citizens United decision
“I agree that Citizens United [which allowed unlimited political giving] was a terrible decision that I am not in favor of.”