By Wesley Lowery
The Washington Post
It's no secret that Ralph Nader has always been a big fan of the idea of third-party presidential candidates. On Monday, Nader - one of the best-known third-party candidate in recent American electoral history - released a list of 20 multi-millionaires and billionaires who he thinks should give real thought to mounting a presidential bid in 2016.
But would any of them really do it? And should they?
According to an October 2013 Gallup poll, six in 10 Americans believe a third major political party is needed - the highest level of support for a third party since the polling firm began tracking disillusionment with the two major parties. However, that sentiment has yet to transfer to the ballot box. While Gallup polling has consistently showed that roughly half of Americans support the idea of a third party, no non-major party candidate has cracked 20 percent of the national popular vote in a presidential race since Theodore Roosevelt did it in 1912.
So, who does Nader want to throw themselves into the breach? Here's our breakdown of his list.
Why he could: An early Barack Obama backer in 2008, this venture capitalist is seen as an Internet pioneer. He invented Mosaic - the first widely-used web browser - and currently sits on the boards of Facebook, Ebay and several other major Internet companies. In 2012, he endorsed Romney, throwing more than $100,000 toward the Republican's election campaign by way of a super PAC donation.
Why he probably won't: While he's been outspoken during each of the last two presidential elections, Andreessen hasn't done anything to signal that he'd be willing to leave Silicon Valley and head to the nation's capital.
Why he could: This former hedge fund manager has been philanthropically active, donating hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to various causes. The Laura and John Foundation, which he co-founded with his wife, focuses primarily on criminal justice, education, and public accountability. As a hedge fund manager, Arnold's specialty was natural gas, so it's not crazy to imagine Arnold mounting a campaign built around the concepts of energy independence.
Why he probably won't: Last year, during the government shut down, Arnold and his wife gave $10 million to keep Head Start programs for low income children running while government funds were cut off. Were he looking to segue into the political realm, this would have been the perfect opportunity. Instead, Arnold dodged the spotlight for his major gift.
Why he could: The co-founder and former CEO and chairman of America Online, Case has been one of the most politically active and vocal proponents in the tech community for economic policies that spur innovative job growth. He currently serves on several Presidential committees, including the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. And his family isn't a stranger to politics - a cousin, Ed Case, served as a congressman from Hawaii from 2002 to 2007.
Why he probably won't: Compared to some of the others, Case has one of the most bipartisan donation records among Nader's list. In 2012, he directed campaign cash to high-profile Republicans including House Speaker John Boehner and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, as well as high-profile Democrats including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. With his money spread around like that, it's likely both parties' establishment folks would work hard to talk him out of an independent run.
Why he could: The world's most profitable hedge fund manager in 2011, the 38-year-old billionaire was declared "the hottest young money manager on the planet" by Forbes last year. Though yet to develop a reputation for being outwardly political, Coleman did serve for six years as co-chairman of the Tiger Foundation, an organization that aims to end poverty in New York City, and has donated money to both the Republican Senatorial Committee and to Mitt Romney during previous election cycles.
Why he probably won't: Honestly, while it's an argument that could be made for any of these folks, Coleman doesn't have much to gain from a presidential run (besides, the whole "becoming president" thing). He's the direct descendant of Peter Stuyvestant - New York's last Dutch governor and, as New York magazine describes him, "the guy who actually built the wall that Wall Street is named for." He's old money, and has the added bonus of having found his niche in the hedge fund world where he's earned millions of his own. Why give up that life for a miserable life in partisan politics?
Why he could: Conway has committed to giving away $1 billion toward programs to spur job growth - so it might makes sense that he would see the Oval Office as a way toward being able to further influence the economy.
Why he probably won't: While a billionaire, Conway's political donations are relatively sparse. In recent years, he's handed out money to Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) as well as a handful of super PACs. Those donations of a few hundred or few thousand dollars are nothing compared to his recent philanthropic efforts. When he's writing checks, it seems they are most often going toward job creation - and less often toward politics.
Why he could: Labeled by some as the "Steve Jobs of investing," Dalio would have a strong economic record to run on. In fact, he predicted the global economic crisis. One of America's richest men, Dalio certainly could afford the financial investment that would be required by an independent presidential run.
Why he probably won't: Dalio doesn't seek the limelight, even in financial circles, the way many of the other names on this list do. He's known as an outdoorsman who spends his free time big game hunting in Africa. Not exactly, the kind of vacation that the partisan environment would let a U.S. president get away with.
Why he could run: A well-regarded media executive, Diller helped spur the creation of the FOX Broadcasting Co. as well as USA Broadcasting and has been outspoken critic of media monopolies. A lifelong Democrat, he has been known to open up his checkbook for like-minded candidates in the past and has been described as a bit of a kingmaker in the television industry.
Why he probably won't: While he has been an active donor in Democratic circles, Diller has not spent nearly the same amount of time or money as many of the others on the list rubbing elbows in political circles. It's unclear if he'd have the political clout to make presidential waves, even if he wanted to.
Why he could: A hedge fund manager, Druckenmiller used to manage investments for a well-known Democratic money man: George Soros. But Druckenmiller is not a liberal like Soros. His political contributions have gone almost exclusively to Republicans, including big gifts to the re-election bids of Republican House leaders.
Why he probably won't: Druckenmiller has been a critic of President Barack Obama, but while he has served as a CNBC talking head, he has not spent much time in raising his profile since his retirement in 2010.
Why he could do it: The only person on this list who can rival Oprah's name recognition, Gates' name has for decades been synonymous with technological innovation and philanthropic efforts for years. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is seen as a philanthropic powerhouse and, at 60, he'd still be relatively young come 2016.
Why he probably won't: A Gates-for-POTUS campaign would constitute a pretty big flip flop. Asked about his potential political ambitions in 2012, Gates declared: "I decided the philanthropic role is where my contribution would be more unique, and so that is what I will work on the rest of my life. . . . I actually think, maybe I'm wrong, that I can have as much impact in that role as I could in any political role. In any case, I would never run for political office."
Why he could: Golisano is one of the only candidates on Nader's list who's run for office before. As the founding member of the Independence Party of New York, Golisano mounted three unsuccessful runs for New York governor in 1994, 1998, and 2002. He considered running again as a Republican in 2006. Since 2011, he has been a spokesman for National Popular Vote, a nonprofit that aims to eliminate the electoral college in favor of a popular vote system.
Why he probably won't: Golisano reportedly spent $90 million of his own money backing his failed gubernatorial bids. While his pockets are deep, would he really be up for bankrolling a 50-state campaign?
Why he could: The PIMCO co-founder certainly doesn't mind the spotlight. During the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling debates he was a major talking-head presence on business networks, opines regularly on monetary policy, and was a major donor to the Obama campaign.
Why he probably won't: His television appearances in recent years aside, Gross hasn't sought out the media glare in the same way that many on this list have. While he's clearly knowledgeable and concerned about the country's economic health, there isn't much to indicate that he's politically ambitious enough to sacrifice hundreds of millions of his own money for a long-shot presidential bid.
Why she could run: The most powerful woman in U.S. finance, Johnson is president and CEO of Fidelity Investments. The Boston native has consistently given to Republican candidates: from Scott Brown to Rob Portman to John Boehner to Gabriel Gomez. She was also a big Romney donor in 2012.
Why she probably won't: While she's been a major player in the financial world for decades, Johnson has no track record as being particularly outspoken politically.
Why he could: One of the world's 100 richest people, Kaiser is chairman of BOK Financial Corp. and a major philanthropist. He was also a major fundraiser and bundler for Obama's 2008 campaign. His George Kaiser Family Foundation invests heavily in early childhood education and community health.
Why he probably won't: The electoral hopes for a Jewish Democrat from Oklahoma seem slim. Add to that the negative blowback from a 2011 investigation into Kaiser's alleged exploitation of tax avoidance strategies and Kaiser's link to failed solar-panel maker Solyndra, and it seems unlikely that Kaiser would desire the scrutiny of the national limelight.
Why he could: While he's been out of the game for a few years, Kohlberg does have a compelling biography. He's a Jewish veteran of World War II who returned to America and made millions in private equity and the leveraged buyout industries. He's been active philanthropically, using his Kohlberg Foundation which focuses on health and medical research, education, and the environment. And he's also been active in helping bankroll campaign finance reform efforts.
Why he probably won't: The oldest of Nader's presidential suggestions, a 2016 presidential bid would mean Kohlberg would celebrate his 90th birthday on the campaign trail.
Why he could: Of all of the names on this list, Rubenstein has some of the deepest Washington ties of anyone on Nader's list. A self-described, "patriotic philanthropist," Rubenstein is the chairman of the Kennedy Center, sits on the board of the Smithsonian, and has used his wealth to do things like buy a copy of the Magna Carta and finance the pandas at the National Zoo.
Why he probably won't: While he's got some political history (Rubenstein worked from 1977 to 1981 as a White House deputy to President Jimmy Carter), that's a long time ago. This billionaire has spent millions on art restoration and on-behalf of non-profits, but just thousands in political donations - signaling that his political ambition may be long behind him.
Why she could: One of the tech world's best known and widely respected executives, Sandberg running for president would be the ultimate "lean in." She currently serves on Obama's Council for Jobs and Competitiveness and was the first woman named to Facebook's board of directors. She's got the clout and - thanks in large part to her massively successful memoir last year - the name recognition. Were she to mount a political run, people would have to pay attention.
Why she probably won't: While Sandberg is one of many politically active Silicon Valley heavyweights, we've yet to see any of them take the plunge and enter elected politics themselves. With her professional success and name recognition, what would be the upside for Sandberg mounting a presidential run unless she really thought she could win?
Why he could: One of the few Republicans on Nader's list, Siebel served as a bundler and fundraiser for the McCain/Palin ticket and hosted fundraisers for Romney in 2012. He's got the money and, based on the few political statements he's made publicly, seems to come from the most conservative wing of the GOP.
Why he probably won't: In his most high profile (and likely, only) political speech to date, he introduced then vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin this way: "Sarah Palin has risen as if from some mythical kingdom of the north. She carries the flag of outrage for the rest of us." There will likely be some desire for an insurgent tea party-esque candidate in 2016, but it's unclear if a political unknown like Siebel would have any real chance.
Why he could: This former hedge fund manager and political moneyman certainly has the ambition and the connections. He's been a fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidates from Walter Mondale to Obama, spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and has used funneled millions to left-leaning super PACs in efforts to support the environmental causes near and dear to his heart. He has pledged to raise and spend $100 million this year for ads on climate change. Last year, Steyer's name was briefly floated as a possibility to replace Steven Chu as energy secretary. Asked by Bloomberg TV if he'd accept, Steyer said he would.
Why he probably won't: Like almost every candidate on Nader's list, Steyer has never sought elected office previously. Bankrolling the campaigns of candidates who will help spur movement on your issues is one thing. Engaging in a years-long cross-country presidential campaign is another thing entirely. So far, Steyer hasn't come close to signaling he'd be up for that.
Why he could: A true media mogul, the CNN founder has publicly flirted with the idea of seeking the presidency in the past - telling reporters in 1998 that he was "very seriously" considering mounting a presidential bid. At the time, he said his presidential ambitions were fueled by a desire to change the world, and he was apparently prepared to set aside $75 million of his own money for the campaign.
Why he probably won't: Turner has spent decades in the public spotlight and over the years has made several controversial comments that would be perfect fodder for political opponents. Once he called those who observe Ash Wednesday "Jesus freaks." Perhaps a more compelling reason Turner would sit out 2016: he'd be 77 years old by Inauguration day.
Why she could: She's Oprah! America's most beloved talk show host has the kind of name recognition that most presidential candidates would kill for. She's known nationally and internationally, as well as among the Democratic donor base - especially in her hometown of Chicago.
Why she probably won't: How many politicians are, truly, "beloved." If you said "zero," you're right. While an at-times probing interviewer and outspoken social advocate, Oprah's brand has benefited largely from her non-polarizing demeanor. By entering the political arena, Oprah would open herself up to a new level of scrutiny, criticism, and attacks that it's hard to imagine she'd be eager to take on.