Kenneth G. Langone
Kenneth G. Langone (Ken Langone) is the co-founder of Home Depot, a big-box home improvement store, is head of the boutique investment firm Invemed Associates, and has invested in and served on the boards of numerous other companies, including Yum! Brands and ChoicePoint, a data company that was involved in a controversy over wrongfully disqualified Florida voters in the 2000 election cycle. In 1968, he helped take public Electronic Data Systems, a data company founded by Ross Perot.
Langone is also "a prodigious Republican fund-raiser and donor," according to The New York Times, supporting candidates including 2016 presidential candidates New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, as well as organizations such as the American Action Network, a major outside spending group. He has attended at least one Koch network donor summit.
While Langone is a Republican, he occasionally supports Democratic candidates. For example, Langone backed the re-election of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014 because Cuomo "seem[ed] to share his concern about the exodus of wealthy, successful people because of the high tax rates in the state and in New York City."
Langone, who lives in New York City, has been a major donor to New York University's medical school, now called the Langone Medical Center, and serves as a trustee of the university.
Langone's estimated net worth as of May 2015 was $2.6 billion, according to Forbes.
- 1 Political Involvement
- 1.1 2016 Presidential Race Funding
- 1.2 2014 Election Cycle Contributions
- 1.3 2013 Support for Chris Christie
- 1.4 2012 Election Cycle Bundling for Romney
- 1.5 Ties to the Koch Brothers
- 1.6 Fundraising for Dark Money Groups
- 2 Controversies
- 2.1 Langone Compares Critics of Inequality to Hitler (2014)
- 2.2 Langone Warns Pope on Criticizing Capitalism (2013-2014)
- 2.3 "Obscene" Perks Given by NYU While Langone Is Vice Chair of Board (2000s)
- 2.4 Approving, then Defending $187 Million Payout to Chair of Non-Profit NYSE (1990s-2000s)
- 2.5 Langone Company Wrongly Classified Florida Voters as Felons (2000)
- 3 Affiliations
- 4 References
2016 Presidential Race Funding
Langone has long backed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, for president, even going so far as to invite Christie to a breakfast with other major GOP figures, including David Koch and Henry Kissinger, in an attempt to convince him to run in 2012. The Wall Street Journal reported in January 2015 that Langone was "one of the most visible backers of Mr. Christie’s possible run for president in 2016." Lagone was reportedly planning to bundle contributions from "his extensive network of fellow donors," and said that "he speaks to Mr. Christie’s political aides a few times a week about their strategy."
Langone has also supported Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, reporting a $10,000 contribution to Walker's campaign in 2014 and making an undisclosed $15,000 contribution to Wisconsin Club for Growth in 2012, during Walker's recall campaign. See Ties to Scott Walker and Wisconsin Club for Growth below for more information.
2014 Election Cycle Contributions
Langone and his wife, Elaine Langone, reported the following contributions to federal candidates and PACs in 2014:
- National Republican Congressional Committee: $37,200
- Seventh District Republican Committee: $20,000
- Citizens for Prosperity in America Today: $10,000
- Republican Campaign Committee of New York: $10,000
- Every Republican is Crucial PAC: $10,000
- Home Depot: $5,000
- Unifi Inc.: $2,500
- Charles Schumer (D): $10,400
- Eric Cantor (R): $10,400
- Pete King (R): $10,400
- Cory Booker (D): $5,200; CoryPAC: $2,500
- Bruce Blakeman (R): $2,600
- Thad Cochrane (R): $5,200
- Carlos Curbelo (R): $2,600
- Lamar Alexander (R): $2,000
- Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R): $1,000
2013 Support for Chris Christie
2012 Election Cycle Bundling for Romney
Langone was a "bundler" for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which reported that as of 2012, Langone and his family had made $1,146,410 in reported contributions to all federal candidates, parties and PACs between 1992 and 2012. The FEC only requires disclosure of bundling done by registered lobbyists, making it difficult to estimate how much Langone bundled for Romney.
Langone had initially supported New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for president, but when Christie declined to run, Lagone shifted his support to Romney, telling Mother Jones "that since he threw his lot in with Romney, he's helped bring 90 percent of the megadonors on the Christie conference call into the Romney camp."
Ties to the Koch Brothers
Langone also included David Koch in a 2011 meeting with Chris Christie during which they and others tried to convince Christie to run for president. According to Christie, who described the scene to reporter Dan Balz of The Washington Post, Langone invited Christie to a breakfast in New York City for the "big sales pitch":
- Christie estimated the group at sixty [people ...] A telephone sat on the table. "So we sit down and Langone stands up and says, 'Governor, all these people are here today for one reason. If you're willing to announce for president of the United States, we're with you, and everyone in this room has committed that to me and everyone in this room will raise every dollar you need to have raised to have a successful campaign.'" [...] He said Langone then announced that several people could not attend because they were out of the country. Christie then described what happened. "All of a sudden you hear John Mack [former CEO of Morgan Stanley] on the phone. [Langone] said, 'David Koch is out of the country. David, are you there?' Yes. David starts talking."
The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.
Fundraising for Dark Money Groups
Langone has been involved and made contributions to a number of organizations and networks that engage in electioneering and political activity without disclosing the sources of their funding.
American Action Network
Langone was an "early donor" to the American Action Network (AAN), a Republican organization created in February 2010 after the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision permitted corporations to spend unlimited money influencing elections. AAN spent $18.9 million "targeting dozens of Democratic House and Senate candidates" in 2010, $11.7 million in 2012, and just under $9 million in 2014.
Super PACs were outspent by outside political nonprofits like AAN by 3 to 2 in the 2010 election cycle, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.
- "The American Action Network alone–with its $21 million in reported ad spending–accounted for more than $1 out of every $5 in political spending by 501(c)(4) nonprofits that was reported to the FEC in the 2010 election."
Ties to Scott Walker and Wisconsin Club for Growth Under Investigation
Langone made an undisclosed contribution of $15,000 in April 2012 to Wisconsin Club for Growth (WiCFG), a Wisconsin-based organization that spent at least $9.1 million during the recall elections, and funneled at least $10 million more to other politically-active groups like Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, while reporting that it spent $0 on politics to the IRS. The contribution only became public in August 2014, when documents related to a "John Doe" investigation into potentially illegal campaign coordination between Walker's campaign, WiCFG, WMC, and possibly other groups were briefly unsealed. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the documents suggest that Walker was advised to personally solicit funds from Langone and others for WiCFG:
- "The records include example after example of Walker or his aides encouraging donors to give money to the Wisconsin Club for Growth.
- "In September 2011, Doner sent an email to Walker and others with brainstorming ideas for raising money for the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Among them: "Take Koch's money," "Get on a plane to Vegas and sit down with Sheldon Adelson," and "Go heavy after (corporations) to give."
- "The documents also show the club received large checks from donors soon after Walker was advised to solicit funds from them for the group. Those included $250,000 from hedge fund CEO Paul Singer, $100,000 from manufacturer Maclean-Fogg Co., $50,000 donation from Atlanticus Holdings CEO David Hanna's trust, $50,000 from hedge fund chairman Bruce Kovner, $50,000 from natural gas and oil producer Devon Energy, $15,000 from Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone and $15,000 from Trump" (emphasis added).
Case documents filed by the prosecutors include the following supporting exhibits related to Langone:
- [Id. at ¶ 63; Exhibits 56, 57] On April 10, 2012, [Walker campaign staffer] Jennifer Bannister sent an e-mail to Governor Walker regarding a phone call with Ken Langone in which she asked, "How did the phone call with Langone go this morning?" WiCFG bank records reflect that on April 10, 2012, Mr. Langone made a $15,000 contribution to WiCFG.
Langone also reported a $10,000 contribution to Walker's campaign in 2014.
For more information, see the pages Scott Walker, Wisconsin Club for Growth, Scott Walker John Doe Documents, and The Campaign to Legalize Coordination in Wisconsin and Nationwide.
Langone Compares Critics of Inequality to Hitler (2014)
Langone compared populist and leftist criticisms of income inequality to the rise of Nazism in comments he made to Politico in 2014.
- "'I hope it’s not working,' Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and major GOP donor, said of populist political appeals. 'Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.'"
Langone apologized for his comments the following day, but in a later interview defended his remarks. "I was telling them how concerned I was by these efforts to divide Americans up by haves and have-nots, and I thought that that was not constructive and certainly not consistent with a unified nation."
Langone Warns Pope on Criticizing Capitalism (2013-2014)
In a 2013 statement to CNBC, Langone had warned Pope Francis "that wealthy people such as himself might stop giving to charity if the Pope continues to make statements criticizing capitalism and income inequality." Langone said that "one potential seven-figure donor is concerned about statements from the pope criticizing market economies as 'exclusionary,' urging the rich to give more to the poor and criticizing a 'culture of prosperity' that leads some to become 'incapable of feeling compassion for the poor,'" according to CNBC.
"Obscene" Perks Given by NYU While Langone Is Vice Chair of Board (2000s)
New York University gives multimillion-dollar home loans to faculty and top administrators, including financial help in buying vacation properties, The New York Times reported in 2013. NYU President John Sexton received around $1 million in loans from NYU to buy a beach house, in addition to a salary of $1.5 million, and documents suggest that a portion of the loan had been forgiven. Langone is a Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees at NYU. The public interest blog Wall Street on Parade called the perks "obscene" and noted that Langone had overseen another case in which a non-profit organization gave out unusually generous compensation when he served on the NYSE board.
Approving, then Defending $187 Million Payout to Chair of Non-Profit NYSE (1990s-2000s)
Langone was the chair of the New York Stock Exchange compensation committee when it authorized $187 million in compensation to Richard Grasso, then Chair of the NYSE, between 2000 and 2002, which at that time was a non-profit organization. Then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sued Langone, Grasso, and the NYSE in 2004, "contending that his Big Board compensation was "unreasonable" and a violation of New York's not-for-profit laws," according to The New York Times. While Langone contended that the board had full knowledge of Grasso's compensation, a senior human resources executive at the NYSE stated in a deposition that she had been requested to alter documents provided to the compensation committee to hide bonus and total compensation data. In 2006 a judge entered summary judgement in favor of the Attorney General's office, though an appellate court later found that the AG lost jurisdiction after the NYSE reorganized as a for-profit entity.
Langone defended the massive payout in an October 2004 interview in Fortune. Commenting on some of the members of the NYSE Board of Directors, Langone said "They got the wrong fucking guy. I'm nuts, I'm rich, and boy, do I love a fight. I'm going to make them shit in their pants. When I get through with these fucking captains of industry, they’re going to wish they were in a Cuisinart — at high speed. If Grasso gives back a fucking nickel, I’ll never talk to him again."
Langone Company Wrongly Classified Florida Voters as Felons (2000)
Database Technologies (DBT, later bought by ChoicePoint, Inc.), was involved in a controversy over wrongfully disqualified Florida voters in the 2000 election cycle, while Langone was on the board of directors. The private, for-profit DBT won a contract from Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris to review voter registration lists for individuals who had been convicted of felonies. Convicted felons are ineligible to vote in much of the United States, a policy that disproportionately disenfranchises poor and minority individuals. Approximately 8,000 names the firm provided to the state turned out to be people who had committed misdemeanors and thus should still have been eligible voters. While not all Florida counties used the list to purge their voter rolls, many did, according to Salon:
- "Etta Rosado, spokeswoman for the Volusia County Department of Elections, said the county essentially accepted the file at face value, did nothing to confirm the accuracy of it and doesn’t inform citizens ahead of time that they have been dropped from the voter rolls.
- "'I don’t think that it’s up to us to tell them they’re a convicted felon,' Rosado said. 'If he’s on our rolls, we make a notation on there. If they show up at a polling place, we’ll say, 'Wait a minute, you’re a convicted felon, you can’t vote. Nine out of 10 times when we repeat that to the person, they say 'Thank you' and walk away. They don’t put up arguments.' Rosado doesn’t know how many people in Volusia were dropped from the list as a result of being identified as felons."
ChoicePoint acknowledged the problem but dismissed the issue as "a minor glitch" Salon reported:
- "ChoicePoint spokesman Martin Fagan concedes his company’s error in passing on the bogus list from Texas. ('I guess that’s a little bit embarrassing in light of the election,' he says.) He defends the company’s overall performance, however, dismissing the errors in 8,000 names as 'a minor glitch — less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the electorate' (though the total equals 15 times Gov. George W. Bush’s claimed lead over Gore). But he added that ChoicePoint is responsible only for turning over its raw list, which is then up to Florida officials to test and correct."
The NAACP brought a civil lawsuit against ChoicePoint over alleged racial discrimination in the voter purges, reaching a settlement in September 2002.
- Home Depot, Co-Founder, Board Member
- Invemed Associates, Inc., Founder and Chair
- Vantis Capital Management LLC, Founder and Chair
- Center for Strategic and International Studies, Trustee
- New York University, Vice Chair, Board of Trustees
- NYU Stern School of Business, Vice Chair of the Board of Overseers
- NYU Langone Medical Center, Chair
- Geek Net, Board Member and Former Chair
- Database Technologies, has served on board
- NYC2012, Inc., Director
- Robin Hood Foundation, Director
- Mainstream Holdings, Inc., Director and Member of Corporate Governance & Nominating Committee
- Choicepoint, Inc., Independent Director
- TI Automotive Ltd., Director
- Electronic Data Systems (data company founded by Ross Perot), former President and COO
- Yum! Brands, Former Board Member (1997-2012)
- New York Stock Exchange, Former Director
- Choice Point Inc., Former Board Member (2002-2008)
- General Electric, Former Board Member (1999-2005)
- AutoFinance Group, Former Board Member
- GMIS Incorporated, Former Director
- Unifi Inc., Former Lead Director, Chairman of Nominating & Corporate Governance Committee and Member of Audit Committee (1978-2008)
- Baby Superstore, Inc., Former Director (1996-2001)
- InterWorld Corporation, Former Director (1996-N/A)
- DBT Online, Inc. Former Director, (1996-N/A)
- Patlex Corp., Former Director, (1997-2012)
- R.W. Pressprich & Co., former Executive Vice President
- Center for Strategic and International Studies, "Kenneth G. Langone," organizational biography, accessed May 2015.
- Gregory Palast, "Florida’s flawed “voter-cleansing” program," Salon, December 4, 2000.
- Nicholas Confessore, "Langone Doesn’t Hesitate in Aiding Romney," The New York Times, October 12, 2011.
- Jackie Calmes, "G.O.P. Group to Promote Conservative Ideas," The New York Times, February 4, 2010.
- Lee Fang, "MEMO: Health Insurance, Banking, Oil Industries Met With Koch, Chamber, Glenn Beck To Plot 2010 Election," ThinkProgress, October 20, 2010.
- Greg Richter, "Home Depot's Langone Defends GOP Support for Democrat Cuomo," NewsMax, February 24, 2014.
- Vivekananda Nemana, "Billionaire NYU Trustee Has Deep And Unsettling Ties To The Republican Party," NYU Local, October 26, 2010.
- Forbes, "Kenneth Langone," wealth profile, accessed May 2015.
- Dan Balz, Collision 2012: The Future of Election Politics in a Divided America, Penguin Books, 2013.
- Heather Haddon, "Ken Langone Puts Money on Chris Christie in 2016," The Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2015.
- Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, "Walker Contributions of $5,000 or More," campaign finance data, July 29, 2014.
- Center for Responsive Politics, "Langone, NY," Open Secrets database, accessed May 2015.
- New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, "Campaign Finance Database," search results, database accessed May 2015.
- Center for Responsive Politics, "Bundlers, Mitt Romney (2012)," Open Secrets database, accessed May 2015.
- Andy Kroll, "The Home Depot Man Who Wants to Demolish Obama," Mother Jones, March/April 2012.
- Charles G. Koch and Koch Industries, "Koch Industries Invite," September 24, 2010. On file with the Center for Media and Democracy.
- Lee Fang, "Wall Street Titan Ken Langone, GOP Presidential Candidate Herman Cain At Koch Brothers Meeting," ThinkProgress, January 30, 2011.
- Lois Romano, "Dan Balz book: Christie a wanted man in 2012," Politico, July 2, 2013.
- Center for Responsive Politics, "American Action Network," outside spending profile, Open Secrets database, accessed May 2015.
- Michael Beckel, "Nonprofits Outspent Super PACs in 2010," Open Secrets blog, June 18, 2012.
- Brendan Fischer, GOP Prosecutor Defends Scott Walker Criminal Probe, Says "Let's Get the Truth Out", PR Watch, May 1, 2015.
- Patrick Marley, Daniel Bice, and Lee Bergquist, "Walker wanted funds funneled to Wisconsin Club for Growth," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 22, 2014.
- Ben White and Maggie Haberman, "The rich strike back," Politico, March 18, 2014.
- Tal Kopan, "Ken Langone sorry for ‘Hitler’ comment," Politico, March 19, 2014.
- Laura Nahmias, "Cuomo’s GOP funder, defiantly, on Astorino," Capital New York, May 19, 2014.
- Hunter Walker, "Billionaire Home Depot Founder Says Pope Francis Is Alienating The Rich," Talking Points Memo, December 31, 2013.
- Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, "Pope's sharp words make a wealthy donor hesitate," CNBC, December 30, 2013.
- Ariel Kaminer and Alain Delaqueriere, "N.Y.U. Gives Its Stars Loans for Summer Homes," The New York Times, June 17, 2013.
- New York University, "Board of Trustees," organizational website, accessed May 2015.
- Pam Martens, "The NYU Scandal Has the Same Cast of Characters as NYSE-Grasso-Gate," Wall Street on Parade, June 23, 2013.
- Krysten Crawford, "Spitzer seeks $100M from Grasso," CNN, May 24, 2004.
- Landon Thomas, Jr., "The Winding Road to Grasso's Huge Payday," The New York Times, June 25, 2006.
- Jenny Anderson, "N.Y.S.E. Executive Tells of Altering Documents to Hide Grasso's Full Payout," The New York Times, April 7, 2006.
- Eliot Spitzer, "Kenneth Langone’s Latest Attack on Me Ignores the Facts," Slate, July 30, 2014.
- Peter Elkind, "The Fall of the House of Grasso," Fortune, October 18, 2004.
- "NAACP Settles with the State of Florida and the Private Company Choicepoint, But Thousands of Voters Illegally Purged From the Rolls Still Can’t Vote," Democracy Now!, September 6, 2002.
- Geeknet, "Directors," organizational website, accessed May 2015.
- "Kenneth G. Langone," Bloomberg Business, profile, accessed May 2015.