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The overwhelming majority of business leaders at America’s biggest companies — Republicans included — are supporting Hillary Clinton for president. But we’d be remiss to overlook the CEOs fervently campaigning for Donald Trump.
Last month, 101 entrepreneurs and business leaders signed an open letter supporting Trump and his economic policy. Among the supporters is Tom Maoli, 54, the founder and CEO of Celebrity Motors, a luxury car dealership group based in New Jersey.
His support of Trump is primarily focused on one thing, just like the others who signed the letter — his economic plan; specifically, the promise of less regulation and less taxation.
According to Maoli, Trump embodies the American success story, despite his companies having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection six times. “Every entrepreneur, every businessman has failures. But Trump has navigated his way through those failures.”
Some business leaders, like Rupert Murdoch and Jack Welch, have endorsed Trump albeit cautiously and reluctantly. But Maoli claims he knows Trump well and unequivocally backs him and his character.
Maoli first met the presidential candidate in 2005 at Trump’s National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ, where Maoli has been a member for over a decade.
“Donald is a personal friend of mine. I’ve had the honor of spending a lot of time with him and talking to him,” he told Yahoo Finance. “It’s not just what I hear on TV. The man is not a womanizer. I think it’s dirty politics and I’ve never witnessed any of it. He understands what the problems are.”
“I think he’s a great candidate. He has the right philosophy for the country and where we need to go. He clearly gets business and understands that politics really don’t work in this country,” he said.
Rather than interpreting Trump’s brash tone as polarizing, Maoli finds it a refreshing change from the diplomatic status quo.
“In a lot of cases, people don’t want to hear it like it is. They feel like he’s rude, abrupt, bombastic,” Maoli said. “But at the end of the day, he says it like it is. That may upset a lot of people, but there comes a point in a situation when you have to face reality.”
Echoing Trump’s own rhetoric, he said, “It’s time for the country to be run like a business…We have other countries like China that are eating our lunch.” He said while he has been fortunate enough to be living the American dream, that possibility is withering away for others.
“My business is very successful. I never went to college and barely graduated from high school,” he said. “People from all over the world, including my grandfather, came to America, through Ellis Island, for a reason: for a better life, for a future, to build wealth. That’s gone.”
But with so many claims and antagonistic remarks toward different ethnic groups, does Trump really support the American dream for all?
“Yes, what he’s saying is illegal immigration is destroying the country. You can’t let people come in illegally and take our jobs and destroy our system. They work for $4 an hour and don’t pay taxes,” he said, contradicting a recent study finding undocumented immigrants pay $12 billion each year in state and local taxes.
Maoli added: “You have to slice and dice what he’s saying. He believes in the American dream, in immigration, in what our forefathers put in place in the Constitution the right way.”
He actually considers his vote to be selfless, altruistic even.
“I’m not backing Donald because I want to help myself or because I want to relieve regulations on my business. Donald’s much deeper than that. Donald believes in the American dream,” Maoli said. “He’s not just thinking about his businesses. What’s the opportunity for the next generation?”
When asked whether he’s been in touch with Trump during the campaign, Maoli said he has had several conversations while Trump has been on the trail. “If I called him today, he’d pick up the phone or return my call,” he said. “His values, morals and vision have not changed since I first met him.”
“I don’t think that Donald has to advance himself forward anymore. At this point in his life, he doesn’t need this job. He’s just clearly in a position to make the decisions.”
Maoli has been raising money for the Trump campaign, which in his view, is an attempt to heal a broken nation. We’ll see if his efforts pay off on Tuesday, given that the latest polls indicate it’s an uphill battle for Trump unless he can secure several swing states.
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Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.