(JTA) — One of the largest donors to the Republican Party in New England, Seth Klarman, is calling on voters to support Democratic candidates in the upcoming elections, and he put his money where his mouth is.
Klarman, who is a registered Independent and stresses that “I’m not a Democrat,” told New York Times columnist Bari Weiss on Saturday that he has so far this year donated $4.9 million to nearly 150 candidates, most running as Democrats. He said that by the election in November he will have spent between $18 million and $20 million on Democratic candidates.
“We need to turn the House and Senate as a check on Donald Trump and his runaway presidency,” he said. “I’m stretching far beyond what I usually do,” he said of his planned donations to Democratic candidates.
Among the Democrats that he has donated to so far in this election cycle are: Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III; Texas Senate candidate Rep. Beto O’Rourke; and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a potential presidential candidate.
He donated more than $2.9 million to Republicans in the 2016 election cycle, according to the Times.
Klarman told Weiss that he “has been alarmed by Republican attempts at voter suppression, and by a president who demonizes immigrants and suggests that Muslims, Hispanics and blacks are second-class citizens.” He also said he feels “betrayed” by “spineless” Republicans who have, with rare exceptions, been “profiles in cowardice.”
The Klarman Family Foundation, which he runs with his wife, has some $700 million in total assets and gave away around $40 million in 2016 with a focus on pro-democracy initiatives, including supporting organizations that protect journalists, combat bigotry and defend L.G.B.T. rights.
Meanwhile, billionaire philanthropist Leslie Wexner announced at a leadership summit in Columbus on Thursday that “I’m no longer a Republican,” and that he will no longer support the Republican Party.
He is telling his friends in elective office that he is now an Independent, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
He made the announcement at an event sponsored by the Columbus Partnership, a group of central Ohio’s most influential business leaders that Wexner chairs, and YPO (formerly Young Presidents’ Organization), a group of under-45 business leaders.
Wexner, who donates generously to Jewish causes and according to Forbes is the wealthiest man in Ohio, is the CEO of L Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.
He made his announcement after former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, visited Columbus before heading to a rally in Cleveland in support of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Corday.
“I was struck by the genuineness of the man; his candor, humility and empathy for others,” Wexner said of Obama.
Wexner said in a speech to his employees last year after the white nationalist and far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that left one counter-protester dead, that he felt “dirty” and “ashamed” by President Donald Trump’s response and that he couldn’t sleep because of the incident, telling himself that “I have to do something because the leader of our country is behaving poorly.”
In the last year, Wexner and his wife, Abby, have donated to initiatives that foster bipartisan civility, as well as contributing $2.8 million to With Honor, a PAC that supports military veterans from both parties who are running for office.
He gave $250,000 in 2012 to a super-PAC backing Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and in 2016, he and his wife donated more than $2 million to candidates, including a $500,000 contribution in support of Jeb Bush for president.