Beyond Buffett, “Patriotic” One Percenters Say, “Tax Me”

January 11, 2012; Source: National Journal | Not all of the superwealthy identify with the political values of the 1 percent members who are fending off the challenges of the 99 percent. A group called Patriotic Millionaires joined with representatives of U.S. Chamber Watch, Public Citizen, and the National Wildlife Federation to issue a “prebuttal” to U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Thomas Donohue, who delivered the annual State of American Business speech on Thursday.

Patriotic Millionaires’ argument is that the Chamber really only represents a small number of large corporations that dominate the Chamber’s funding in order to pursue tax cuts and regulation rollbacks. At their news conference, spokesperson for Patriotic Millionaires Leo Hindery, a managing partner in a private equity firm, said, “Nothing that’s being suggested in the Chamber’s proposals . . . will create jobs.”

Patriotic Millionaires wasn’t formed solely to take on Donohue and the Chamber. Last spring, the organization pledged to match any contribution that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) might make to the U.S. Treasury, Hatch’s challenge to rich people who favored increased taxes (a challenge that Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett recently took up as a dollar-for-dollar or even higher match of any donations from Congressional Republicans).

Last fall, Patriotic Millionaires sent a letter to Senators Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) arguing for higher taxes for the wealthy. The letter was signed by a number of reasonably well-known people of significant wealth, including, for example:

  • Bernard Winograd (recently retired executive VP and chief operating officer for Prudential Financial’s U.S. operations)
  • Philippe Villers (high-tech entrepreneur and founder/president of Families USA)
  • Sarah Stranahan (former chair of the Needmor Fund, established by Duane and Virginia Stranahan, heirs to the Champion Spark Plug Company fortune)
  • Abigail Disney (daughter of Roy Disney and founder of the Daphne Foundation)
  • Susie Buell (founder of Esprit clothing)
  • Arnold Hiatt (former president of Stride Rite footwear)

There are others identifying themselves with Patriotic Millionaires, such as Susan Adelman, the president of her family foundation. Adelman describes the purpose of Patriotic Millionaires as “millionaires and hopefully some billionaires” joined to “make the case to Congress and the public that we should push those tax rates up to reasonable levels.” A Forbes columnist, however, characterizes Patriotic Millionaires as “some very well off individuals [who] seem happy to spend their own money in opposition to their class interests.”

Can Patriotic Millionaires convince more “classmates” to join Adelman in saying, “Tax me?” – Rick Cohen