Peter G. Peterson is an American businessman who was CEO of several prominent companies such as Bell & Howell and Lehman Brothers before founding the private equity firm Blackstone Group. He is currently most well-known for being the founder and principal financier of his Peter G. Peterson Foundation, that claims their mission is to "increase public awareness of the nature and urgency of key fiscal challenges threatening America's future and to accelerate action on them." He also served as Secretary of Commerce under President Richard Nixon.
He has been called the most influential billionaire in politics due to his spreading of his wealth throughout the political spectrum to reduce the debt.
Our Take on Peter G. Peterson
These "Fix the Debt" CEOs are the same CEOs that crashed our economy, took their bonuses, and ran, leaving the rest of America to clean up their mess. Although their calls for bipartisan cooperation hit all the right notes to the American public, we believe that the push to get a lower corporate tax rate from a bipartisan solution is the ulterior motive of these CEOs. Peterson himself has contributed almost half a billion dollars to his foundation that pushes for the reform of programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Peterson has not limited his donations to one party, but rather built a coalition of Democrats and Republicans. His efforts are complimented by his online news service, The Fiscal Times, which supports the Peterson-funded groups in his vision.
The transparency of his motives is further obscured by the head of his organizations, David Walker. Walker takes no money as the head of the Peter G. Peterson foundation, but is on the payroll of Peterson Management, LLC, effectively allowing him to overstep the lobbying restriction on nonprofit foundations.
Articles on Peterson and the "Fix the Debt" Campaign
Unmasking the most influential billionaire in U.S. politics is the intent of this Michael Hilzik article about the Peterson effort in the Los Angeles Times: "The most influential billionaire in America is Peter G. Peterson, whose misleading campaign to 'reform' traditional social welfare programs has subtly set the terms of the Washington debate."
"Fix the Debt, Destroy the Recovery" by Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect explains some of the politics here, noting that David Walker as head of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation has been deeply involved in the effort to levitate the late Bowles-Simpson Commission as a template for deficit-reduction, and has been working closely with the corporate-funded "Fix the Debt" campaign of more than 100 CEOs lobbying for an austerity grand bargain.
A report released by Sen. Bernie Sanders also details how many of the companies headed by the same CEOs in the Fix the Debt coalition have avoided taxes, sent American jobs overseas and took taxpayer bailouts.
"The People's Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan" by Eric Laursen explains how the conservative movement has created an environment in which groups that defend the safety net as regarded as "extremists" – even within the Democratic Party as well as in the media – and defines people such as Peterson and groups like Third Way as "centrists" even though the overwhelming majority of Americans support protecting the safety net.