As Electoral College rubber-stamps election
On the same day that the Electoral College formally ratified his election, Donald Trump named billionaire Vincent Viola to be the new secretary of the Army in his administration.
The owner of the Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League, Viola made his fortune as a commodities speculator. He graduated from West Point in 1977, served as an officer in the 101st Airborne Division and remained active for decades in the US Army Reserve. In 1982, he bought a seat on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), where he made millions on oil and gasoline futures during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
By 2001, he had become the chairman of NYMEX and supervised emergency efforts that successfully restarted trading on the exchange less than a week after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which temporarily shut down Wall Street.
In 2002, Viola and several partners began a new trading firm specializing in high-speed, computer-driven transactions. The company eventually became Virtu Financial, worth $2.4 billion and active on 200 exchanges worldwide, according to the Wall Street Journal. Retired Army General John Abizaid is on Virtu's board of directors.
Viola worked with Gary Cohn at NYMEX in the 1980s. Cohn went on to become president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs, and earlier this month was named by Trump to be chairman of his National Economic Council.
Viola would be the sixth billionaire to take a prominent role in the Trump administration.
The roster begins with Trump himself, whose estimated $4 billion fortune is derived from real estate speculation, casino gambling and his television ventures, according to Forbes magazine. (Trump himself claims to be worth $10 billion.) The other billionaires include:
Wilbur Ross, nominated to head the Department of Commerce, amassed $3 billion as an asset-stripper preying on the coal, steel and auto parts industries.
Betsy DeVos, heir to the billion-dollar Prince auto parts fortune, married into the $5 billion DeVos Amway fortune. She has been named secretary of education.
Linda McMahon, billionaire co-owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, will head the Small Business Administration.
Todd Ricketts, son of TD Ameritrade boss Joe Ricketts and owner of the Chicago Cubs, will be deputy commerce secretary under Ross. His fortune is estimated at $2 billion.
What all six billionaires have in common is the fact that their fortunes are derived not from building up business empires based on the production, distribution or even sale of goods, but from activities that are parasitic or directly destructive in character.
Trump sets the tone, with his casino gaming and reality television empire, followed by two financial speculators (Viola and Ricketts), a vulture capitalist (Ross), a wrestling mogul (McMahon) and an heiress to the Amway pyramid scheme (DeVos).