Gary Johnson’s Libertarian Party campaign for president received its biggest single donation, pushing very near the legal maximum with $117,000 from B. Wayne Hughes Jr. The donation went to the Gary Johnson Victory Fund, a special joint fundraising committee formed by the Johnson campaign and a group of state Libertarian Parties. This committee can currently legally take a maximum of $122,700 from individual donors. Hughes’ father founded the company Public Storage, and Hughes is on its board of directors. He described his fortune as deriving from “real estate” in a phone interview last night.
Hughes had, as he said, a “long history of donating to the Republican Party” and was “involved as a donor in both Bush campaigns.” He had also been a major funder of Karl Rove’s American Crossroads PAC that helped win Congress for the GOP in 2010.
Hughes was also a major funder of California’s Proposition 47, giving over $1.2 million and winning for a proposition that, as the Sacramento Bee reported in a story on Hughes’ philanthropy in 2014, “lowers penalties to misdemeanors for drug possession and property crimes, and could result in the release of 9,000 prisoners.”
“I was inspired that the people of California would take time and stop and see the issue for what it was. They have a heart,” Hughes told the Bee then. The Bee reported that Hughes’ philanthropy was at that point mostly focused on “saving lost souls. He visits a prison every few months, and funds a prison ministry and several women’s recovery homes. Hughes interest in prisoners was inspired by his friendship with Chuck Colson, the former Nixon aid who dedicated his later years to helping prisoners reform.
Hughes does not feel like he has walked away from the GOP now, saying that in the Trump era “it’s a matter of them walking away from me.” He went to the Johnson campaign, not the other way around, he says. “I don’t see any ideas and any track record on either side [of the two major parties] that would lend itself to good government,” Hughes says. He studied Johnson and his vice presidential partner William Weld’s records as Republican governors of New Mexico and Massachusetts, respectively, and saw them “speaking reason and sanity into what was otherwise cacophony” in the election.
While he’s been aware of the Libertarian Party, “I never thought of throwing my vote” to it until now. “I’m conservative,” he says. “I characterize myself as a conservative before a Republican. I’m very fiscally conservative and socially moderate.” He says he first heard about Johnson from “a friend” about six months ago who “said there was a third [choice] trying to carve out a place at the table.”
He most appreciated about Johnson and Weld “their experience, and their position toward governance and against government being involved in all of our daily lives, creeping in all the time through regulation and taxation and restrictions. That’s not” what should be the government’s position.
I talked to Hughes about various areas where the Libertarian position might run counter to Republican thinking.
On immigration, while he thinks “a country that doesn’t secure its borders puts itself in danger” he also believes that “if folks want to come here and work and start a new life, there’s no better country in the world to do so, and I don’t hold it against them. Deporting 11, 12 million here illegally is not feasible and just grandstanding.”
While he says one of Johnson’s pet issues of marijuana legalization “really isn’t that important to me,” he also thought: “Why would we ask law enforcement to put their life on the line to enforce the law against someone who wants to smoke marijuana? That’s ridiculous. It doesn’t make you go and rob banks, it makes you order a pizza.” Ultimately “the war on drugs is a joke” though he still believes “certain drugs consume a person’s body and mind and soul and causes them to do bad things, but I don’t think marijuana falls into that category.”
On foreign policy, Hughes agrees “the idea of nation building is ridiculous, and we are in how many dozen countries paying to be there? Even China or Russia, the amount of bases they have on foreign soil pales to amount we have�not that we are a bad actor, we are there for the right reasons, but being world policeman is a role we filled for a long long time and it’s time to take ourselves out of that role.”
Hughes knows that doing so means “there are going to be problems, but that doesn’t mean we ought not think of taking ourselves out of that role; we’ve been hanging on to that anchor and it’s taking us deeper and deeper and it’s time to let go of the anchor” of that responsibility to manage the world.
Hughes, as the reporting on his role supporting Prop. 47 stressed, is a serious Christian, though he “wouldn’t say my faith had anything to do with my decision for Gov. Johnson.” But he does like to think of Jesus in his work and in his support of prison ministries and prison reform. “People in prison are under pressure, and they can turn to dust or diamonds depending on who takes a stand with them,” Hughes says.Hughes has not completely ruled out the idea of further funding for Johnson through SuperPACs, though he thinks it’s unlikely. He says he’s given to such PACs before and they didn’t necessarily do things he wanted them to do. “$117,000 is a lot of money, but I think Gov. Johnson is the candidate who is going to speak truth and light into a situation where it’s in short supply.