Election 2012

Hungarian Immigrant Makes Waves With Anti-Obama Ads

Thomas Peterffy knows damaging economic policies when he sees them

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It hardly counts as news anymore when some put-upon billionaire starts fulminating about Barack Obama. The likes of the Koch brothers, Stephen Schwarzman, and Leon Cooperman have already called the president all sorts of terrible things, Schwarzman even comparing his tax policies to the Nazis' (he later apologized). What's startling, then, about a new ad on cable television suggesting Obama is a socialist is that it's not angry at all—it's actually sort of a tear-jerker.

The unusual ad, "Freedom to Succeed," is the handiwork of Thomas Peterffy, 68, an emigre from socialist Hungary who founded Interactive Brokers, the world's largest online broker, and built a fortune of $7.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Peterffy, who is ruddy and thickset, narrates and appears in the ad, which intersperses shots of him as a young boy with scenes from the aftermath of Hungary's failed 1956 revolution. "I grew up in a socialist country and I know what that does to people," he says solemnly, as images of poverty and suffering flash by. "There is no hope, no freedom, no pride in achievement. The nation became poorer and poorer."