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Trump’s trailblazers: Billionaires who turned to politics

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, speaks during a campaign rally late Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Denver.

WASHINGTON >> If Donald Trump wins the White House on Tuesday, he’ll become America’s first billionaire businessman to serve as president. But he’ll be following in the footsteps of other moguls who have jumped into the political fray elsewhere in the world.

The track record for these businessmen-turned-political leaders is decidedly mixed. Some have translated their private sector acumen into success in government. Others had tenures marked by scandal, and even a military coup.

Americans have elected presidents with business experience before — among them, George W. Bush, who ran an oil company, and Herbert Hoover, a mining executive. But all moved into politics before running for the nation’s highest office. Trump would be the first American president to never have held elected office, or other high-level government or military post.

The real estate magnate has long promoted his business background as a selling point for voters frustrated with career politicians.

“We need people in Washington that know how to make a deal,” Trump says.

A look at some of the billionaires who blazed a trail from business to politics:

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SILVIO BERLUSCONI, ITALY

Trump has drawn more comparisons to the brash Berlusconi, a three-term Italian prime minister, than perhaps any other world leader.

Both are irreverent and controversial, and they like to flaunt their lavish lifestyles. Each started his careers in real estate, but made his name in the media world: Berlusconi built a fortune buying up television stations and Trump became a fixture in the New York tabloids and reality TV.

For Trump, that’s probably about where he’d like the comparisons to end.

Berlusconi was a fixture in Italian politics for two decades, but his time in office was frequently marred by scandal. He was convicted of multiple crimes, including tax fraud and paying for sex with an underage prostitute, though the latter charge was overturned by an appeals court.

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PETRO POROSHENKO, UKRAINE

Known as Ukraine’s “Chocolate King,” Poroshenko made his fortune in the confectionary industry. Now he’s a key Western partner in trying to resolve the heated dispute between Ukraine and Russia.

Poroshenko was elected president in 2014 following the public uprising that led to the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian leader. The billionaire businessman positioned himself as a friend of Europe and the United States, and indeed speaks and meets regularly with both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

But Poroshenko’s tenure has coincided with more Russian meddling in Ukraine, particularly along the country’s shared border. The U.S. has sent Ukraine tens of millions of dollars in nonlethal aid; Obama has resisted calls to send lethal assistance.

It’s unclear what type of support Poroshenko would have from the U.S. under a potential Trump administration. Trump has spoken favorably about Russian President Vladimir Putin an Trump has said he would be “looking at” whether to recognize Crimea — a Ukrainian area annexed by Moscow — as Russian territory.

Poroshenko’s transition from businessman to political leader also holds warning signs for Trump’s financial future. The Ukrainian leader saw his net worth decline significantly after taking office.

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THAKSIN SHINAWATRA, THAILAND

A telecommunications billionaire, Thaksin was Thailand’s prime minister until he was ousted in a military coup in 2006.

During his tenure, Thaksin drew support from poorer voters who backed his reduction in hospital feeds and other populist programs.

But Thaksin’s wealth would contribute to his political downfall. He faced corruption allegations after his family sold a company for $1.9 billion in a way that enabled them to avoid paying taxes on the sale, sparking a year of political tumult in Thailand that ended in the coup.

Though he’s been in exile for several years, Thaksin remains involved in Thai politics from affair. Earlier this year, he weighed in on American elections, saying there was “some similarity” between himself and Trump.

“The cultures are very similar, the culture of being a businessman,” Thaksin told the Financial Times. “And then when successful businessmen come to politics, they give fresh air to political campaigns.”

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SEBASTIAN PINERA, CHILE

Pinera’s financial empire touched numerous parts of Chilean society. He held stakes in the country’s largest airline, a television station and the popular soccer team Colo-Colo.

Turning to politics, Pinera campaigned on his private sector experience and became the first conservative to lead Chile since military rule ended in 1990. But his presidency launched to an inauspicious start — a major earthquake disrupted his 2010 inauguration.

Chile experienced solid economic growth during Pinera’s four-year term, but the president himself was deeply unpopular. Chile’s constitution prohibits presidents from serving two consecutive terms. Pinera is eligible to run again in 2018.

Pinera hasn’t been shy about weighing in on the U.S. election, levying sharp criticism on Trump. During an appearance in New York last fall, Pinera said the Republican would be a divisive leader and said his election would be a “tragedy.”

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Follow Julie Pace on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

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  • Hillary is now worth over $220 million (even thought she said she came out of the oval office dirt poor). $220 Million is not too far away from Billionaire status at the rate she’s been accumulating dollars for doing nothing.

    • Doesn’t really matter. I think it is obvious that the Donald is not nearly as rich as he makes out to be. It makes little sense to vote for someone with his record of bankruptcies and stiffing people. Sweet Hillary may be far from perfect but she is qualified to be president and most important will not be an embarrassment.

        • Check it out; the Trumpster is practically on the bottom of the poll as far as Billionaires is concerned. In other words, a “small fry.” But his mouth makes like he’s the richest human on earth. I would consider him just a millionaire after the election.

          Mark Zukerberg?, of Face book fame lost in one day(3.5 bil) which is what trump is worth.

  • How much money one has doesn’t matter. Your either voting for an unknown political person trying to get into a public office or a corrupted Public worker whose made money off of being in politics. I bet even the most honest person would be tempted to find the loop holes to get something out of it. Even the Donald would succumb to the Greenbacks. You ask yourself who has held a public office and made numerous mistakes while in office? So you look at Trump and ask people, what in the World have you got to lose voting for Trump? New blood, end the corruption in Washington and I’m not saying Trump won’t start his own corrupted deeds to get the Greenbacks. Just end the Old Boys Network and let them start over again but it’ll be harder to do so with more trained eyes because of Crooked Hillary has already done.

    • An unknown political person? Unknown,the DONALD.? He’s even more UNKNOWN when we don’t get his tax returns. Oh we know what he’s known for! Bullying,grabbing pushkeys, bankrupcies, crookeD university, 3 time deferred NAM dodger, Divorce courts, civil court and even criminal court, an army of lawyers,etc.etc.etc. Read his book The Art of Deceit.

      • Eh? Nana your statement is weak compared to Hillary Clinton,please try again!…you want “Unknown”? How about Barrack Hussein Obama the “Community Organizer’ / Law Professor.Never ran ANYTHING! All Waha Nui!
        Heck even CBS didn’t know who he was!”Who is Barrack Obama?I’ve never heard of him”….CBS’s Charlie Rose 2008. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Unknow?

    • IRT Pocho, fully agree with your post. Our Constitution does not say that anyone running for President must have a political background and experience. All it says, “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.” To Make America Safe and Great Again.

  • …….unlike Poroshenko Donald already has his kids running the Business, who bte are doing an excellent job running Trump Enterprise! He may not get RICH ,that much is true. Unlike Career Politicians!lol! Because he is not taking a salary to be “Commander In Chief” he’s doing this for the People! He also stated ” This country has been so good to me, I want to return what the Country has given me”
    How’s that! Braaaaah! C’mon Donald You’re almost there! 2 more days!

    My final assessment, after the election these rich Billionaires ours included ? “Will come ah Knocking” on President Trumps door. watch!

  • Donald’s bumbling as leader of his campaign is not a “refreshing change,” it’s bumbling.

    For you good Republicans who sincerely believe in conservative economic and social values, I respect that. But Trump is incompetent as an executive, business or political. We’re all better off without him.

    For racist, misogynistic Trump fans, you’re better off going back to school. We’re not going back to the “Great” America your grandpa is so fond of. Get a clue, get with the times!

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