Meet Robert Halper, a retired trader and former vice chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Like a lot of wealthy Wall Street-connected 52-year-olds, Halper gave the maximum contribution of $2,500 to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. But this guy also wrote a $20,000 check to help launch Occupy Wall Street.
Halper, a one-percenter who made his fortune as a Wall Street trader, happens to be one of the largest donors to the anti-corporate magazine Adbusters. (The Times writes that the Brooklyn-born Halper "was first attracted by the magazine's spoofs on corporate logos and advertisements.") He's donated somewhere between $50,000 and $75,000 to the magazine over the last two decades, enough to earn him friendly dinners with founder Kalle Lasn—like this one a few months ago, the New York Times writes:
Mr. Halper said he first heard about the plan for protests in June when he visited Kalle Lasn [...] Over a steak dinner, the two longtime friends discussed Mr. Lasn's project, a plan to fill Wall Street with protesters as a way to galvanize anger on the political left into a revolutionary movement resembling the Arab Spring.
"I rolled my eyes," he said. "I was more interested in talking about health care."
But Mr. Halper, who lives on the Upper West Side, had long been a supporter of the magazine [...] So he wrote a check for $20,000 and returned to his life in New York.
It's not odd for a guy who made his money in finance to spend money on causes hoping to curb the industry's worst abuses. (If anything, it's nice to have rich backers—it takes money to fight money.) It is a little odd, though, that Halper (who donates about $100,000 a year "to a variety of causes, mostly related to health care and the arts") would also be donating money to Wall Street's favorite candidate:
He recently gave $2,500 to Mitt Romney's campaign for president, after meeting him at a neighbor's fund-raiser. "My giving is a little A.D.D. - like me," he said, referring to what he described as his hyperactivity and wandering attention.
We can only imagine what it's like to have enough money to write several-thousand-dollar checks to causes that effectively cancel each other out. And we're very excited to see the anti-Romney right wing discover Halper. He should consider donating to some Islamic charities, too.
But for what it's worth, Halper seems to agree more with the protesters than with Romney—he says that "pain... should be shared" and "people who have money... should pay something more, whether that's in taxes or somewhere else"—though the Times says he's "ambivalent" about Occupy Wall Street in general. Even so, he's been down in Zuccotti Park every day talking to people. It's "the coolest place in New York," he says.
[NYT; image via AP]