Yes, Worse Than DeSantis, Maybe Worse Than Trump
My skin crawls when I see Ramaswarmy in action. Here at DWT we were looking at him long before Meatball Ron was worrying that the Trump ally from Ohio was going to knock him out of second place. Like Marjorie Traitor Greene, Ramaswarmy has insisted that he would vote for Trump to be president if Trump was behind bars (including for his leading role in the attempted coup).
Yesterday, on This Week, Ramaswarmy was shucking and jiving. George Stephanopoulos asked him why he has said that it’s “OK for a convicted felon to be president.” Ramaswarmy: “I think that many of these prosecutions against Donald Trump are outright, downright politicized persecutions through prosecution that set an awful precedent for our country… [I]f it's not me as the nominee, I still expect that Donald Trump or whoever the Republican nominee will be better than the alternative. And I care about what actually moves this nation forward.”
Stephanopoulos pressed him by reminding him that “Back in January of 2021, you described President Trump's actions then as abhorrent. What exactly did you find abhorrent about his actions around January 6th?” He said he draws “a distinction between bad behavior and illegal behavior. And once we start conflating those two things, I think we're in a long, downward slide as a country… I think there were a number of bad judgments that were made. Frankly, if I were the U.S. president, I would have never let it get to that place [fake electors]. We had systematic suppression of information. We had systematic COVID mandates, which I think actually created a lot of the frustration that led up to January 6th that was pent up. Two different standards of law for people who were part of BLM or Antifa or otherwise. A Hunter Biden laptop story that was suppressed on the eve of an election. So, if I were the U.S. president, I would have never let it get to that place… That being said, I do not believe that Donald Trump should be prosecuted.”
As early as May the Trump team saw ‘swarmy as a “rat-fucker” who would help crush DeSantis, something ‘swarmy has since confirmed. 4 months ago, Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnlsey were reporting that Trump’s “interest in Ramaswamy’s campaign is simple: The insurgent candidate has spent much of his run for office trashing Trump’s top rival, DeSantis. As Ramaswamy’s poll numbers and standing in the primary have risen a bit in recent weeks, so has Trump’s interest. The former president has praised him both publicly and privately, offered encouragement for his White House bid, and has even told Ramaswamy how good-looking he is. When asked how Trumpland generally views the former president’s boosting of Vivek 2024, one Trump adviser bluntly tells Rolling Stone that ‘of course’ it’s a ‘total ratfuck’ against DeSantis. Starting in early March, multiple Trump advisers began telling Rolling Stone that the team was keeping an eye on Ramaswamy, and were expecting (and hoping for) a coming polling boomlet for the candidate. This, the advisers said, would force DeSantis to expend resources attacking Ramaswamy and other lower-polling, non-Trump candidates. There are already signs that Team DeSantis is sensing increasing threats from below, with top DeSantis allies going out of their way to snipe at candidates like Nikki Haley, even as the governor insists it’s only a two-man race between him and Trump.”
Ramaswarmy knows he’s not going to be president. But Trump (and Putin) may be looking at a potential Secretary of State. Yesterday, Alex Isenstadt broke the news that DeSantis’ campaign has been all over the media smearing the heck out of ‘swarmy— and Lord knows there’s a lot of ammo. Still, that isn’t something campaign operatives usually brag about. Jeff Roe is a real buck of slime, though, and DeSantis has him running the SuperPAC.
Roe boasted to DeSantis donors that “Everything you read about him is from us. Every misstatement, every 360 he’s conducting or 180 that he is going through in life, is from our scrutiny and pressure. And so, he’s not going to go through that very well, and that will get worse for him.” Isenstadt heard Roe’s bragging on a tape that someone made of the meeting. (Yes, yes, they’re all a bunch of rat-fuckers.)
Campaigns and allied super PACs often peddle opposition research on their opponents to the press in hopes of landing negative stories. But it is exceedingly rare that a top strategist is caught on a recording admitting as much. And Roe is no mere operative. Never Back Down has taken on a central role in trying to secure the nomination for DeSantis, spending tens of millions of dollars to support a major voter persuasion and advertising operation.
A spokesperson for Never Back Down did not return a request for comment. Ramaswamy’s campaign, however, cast Roe’s comments as evidence that the candidate was gaining momentum.
“When DeSantis’s Super Pac campaign, Chris Christie, the New York Times, MSNBC and the rest of the bipartisan establishment are all going after you at the same time, you know you’re right over the target,” said Ramaswamy spokesperson Tricia McLaughlin. “America watched Vivek dominate the debate stage, it’s no wonder Never Back Down is pissing away another $20+ million after Labor Day.”
…“We’ve just been playing without pads, practicing without pads,” Roe said. The campaign, he added, has been “playing in the sandbox with Vivek and [North Dakota Gov. Doug] Burgum and this kind of dance we need to do, little tapioca pudding crap that we’ve been doing. I think the separation is going to be real and stark and aggressive. I think that will become real clear the day after Labor Day.” [That’s tomorrow.]
While Roe stressed that the race was still in an early stage, he also emphasized that Never Back Down had been investing serious resources to help position DeSantis for the stretch ahead. The super PAC, he revealed, had spent $15 million before the Florida governor announced his presidential bid in late May.
The DeSantis operation has made electability a central theme of his pitch to voters, arguing that he would be best positioned to defeat President Joe Biden in 2024. During the meeting, Roe argued that if Trump was the nominee, Republicans would lose the presidential race and give Democrats control of both congressional chambers. He also warned that in such a scenario, Democrats would pack the Supreme Court and push statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
As for the path ahead, Roe tried to sound a bullish note.
“Iowa is a real state for us because of its education— it’s a highly educated state— because of income, because of bible reading,” he said of the first caucus state, where DeSantis trails Trump by a slightly less severe margin than elsewhere. “New Hampshire is a terrible state for Donald Trump. That’s a terrible state for him. He’s gonna get like 28 percent. Now there is more people who will have a slice of that and some people are just betting on New Hampshire overall. But he’s going to lose the first two states. We’re going to beat him in Iowa.”
Ramaswarmy is a slimy little crook-- and Yale business professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld has been exposing him as a pump-and-dump criminal, debating him for a couple of years. Last week, writing for Fortune, he noted, eloquently, that he “always knew that Ramaswamy would excel on the debate stage by running circles around his more experienced rivals who are more likely to be grounded by facts and dignity. Attention-seeking is core to the Ramaswamy playbook. He thrives on it– whether that attention is positive or negative. Two years ago, Ramaswamy, as a Harvard College and Yale Law School alumnus, desperately begged me through mutual friends to debate him on campus in a bid to promote his book attacking business ESG practices. Even then, he indicated a smoldering interest in running for president on the GOP ticket, according to emails I possess, by exploiting his anti-woke branding.”
Off stage, he was charming and gracious. In email and Twitter exchanges, he was provocative, trying to bait me into endless fights.
He succeeded in doing so at a different forum a year later— last December, before the National Association of Attorneys General. At the time, he was still honing his debate technique: Make an outrageous claim (the injustice of the SEC following any EPA guidelines on toxic emissions), find an irrelevant point where it could apply (one arcane trace chemical where the rulemaking might need revision), and then recast that into condemnation of all regulation. If you go down that rabbit hole with him, you’re trapped— unless you are an expert chemist who is prepared to give the full context.
Just this weekend, he employed this technique with CNN’s Dana Bash who skillfully led him to label as “a fringe comment” his own shameful attack on a Black congressional leader. When Bash asked him about his claim that scientifically well-documented climate change is a hoax, he said that the same people who warn us of global warming used to warn of a coming ice age–as if they were now contradicting themselves.
Of course, that is nonsense as a future ice age would be one of the results of global warming melting polar ice caps, as NASA has confirmed. Then, Bash had to go into a break, leaving Ramaswamy’s smug gotcha reply— and misinformation— unchallenged.
Last year, Ramaswamy penned an anti-woke screed in The Economist in response to my own Economist article on corporate social impact, while actively pitching media with ridiculous attacks on the 1,000+ companies that exited Russia, which I helped encourage since the start of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as snipping away at me unprovoked on Twitter.
Earlier this year, after I exposed his shady business track record of brazen pump-and-dump schemes, his campaign staff bizarrely threatened me by email, over the phone, and in Twitter taunts, interspersed with provably false claims. Here’s what the facts show about Ramaswamy’s business record, as we earlier exposed, and which Ramaswamy inadvertently confirmed to us, revealing his talents as an illusionist.
Ramaswamy’s tax records show that the first time he ever made big money was when he hyped up an Alzheimer’s drug candidate, Axovant, which had been discarded by other pharmaceutical companies. Axovant, which was 78% owned by Ramaswamy’s corporate holding company Roivant, blew up after failing FDA tests, with the stock crashing from $200 to 40 cents, fleecing thousands of mom-and-pop investors who bought into the hype. Ramaswamy himself profited handsomely (even if the Ramaswamy campaign took a while to acknowledge the truth).
Ramaswamy spokesperson Tricia McLaughlin first told us that “the idea that Vivek made any money on [Axovant’s] failure is a total lie” before finally acknowledging that Ramaswamy did indeed cash out, claiming “[Ramaswamy] and other shareholders were forced to sell a tiny portion of their shares in 2015 to facilitate an outside investor entering Roivant.” The facts are that Ramaswamy’s own tax returns show he opportunely sold out of nearly $40 million of Roivant stock right as Axovant’s hype was peaking. Meanwhile, Roivant was raising $500 million driven largely by Axovant. As Ramaswamy was busy selling his own personal stake, Roivant gradually reduced and diluted its Axovant stake from 78% to just 25%.
Clearly, the facts show Ramaswamy’s words did not match his actions as he was busy cashing out while shamelessly hyping Axovant’s prospects in media interviews— almost resembling a classic pump-and-dump scheme. Some $40 million in personal windfalls is hardly “tiny.” Ramaswamy was not “forced to sell” as that was clearly a personal choice without anyone holding a gun to his head. Amazingly, Ramaswamy’s spokesperson further confirmed to us that Ramaswamy was aware that 99.7% of all drugs tested for Alzheimer’s fail even though he was relentlessly hyping Axovant’s chances of success with nary a mention of that inconvenient truth.
Similarly, in 2020, Ramaswamy reduced his stake in Roivant Sciences, with his tax returns showing he made nearly $200 million in a sweet deal with Sumitomo right before the company’s valuation shrank fivefold after its SPAC-driven public listing. Meanwhile, Ramaswamy’s pharma companies are behaving like patent trolls, persistently suing both Pfizer and Moderna and weirdly claiming ownership of their mRNA COVID vaccines. Ramaswamy’s campaign claims that Ramaswamy has helped develop countless new drugs, but Roivant’s own SEC filings show the company has only ever commercialized one drug, the obscure skincare drug VTAMA.
Ramaswamy’s most lucrative stock investments when he was working for QVT Investments, including Pharmasset and Inhibitex, shared the same underlying attributes of improbably spectacular timing, buying into the stocks ahead of mergers.
It is noteworthy that convicted “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli who first came to prominence by jacking up the price of a life-saving 62-year-old drug frequently used by HIV and malaria patients by more than 5000% before going to prison for securities fraud has called Ramaswamy “a friend” and one of his “biggest investors.” (The presidential hopeful says it was during his tenure as an investment analyst at QVT Financial.)
Ramaswamy’s other business, Strive Asset Management, is even more of an illusion. Its assets under management have stagnated as the company is reduced to begging for consulting contracts from politicos in state governments, an obvious conflict of interest given Ramaswamy’s political activities. Strive has some of the highest fees of any of its peers and is now facing multiple lawsuits from former employees who say they were aggressively pressured into violating securities laws and that Ramaswamy routinely exaggerated his company’s abilities.
Interestingly while he attacks ESG hiring priorities in the name of meritocracy, he happily staffs his enterprise leadership ranks through cronyism (hiring his high-school pal as president of one firm) and nepotism (hiring his brother and mother to help lead another firm).
Claiming he “didn’t have the money” to afford law school, Ramaswamy benefited from a Soros Fellowship. However, his tax returns show he was apparently earning several million dollars as an investment analyst while simultaneously being a full-time student— before reportedly paying a Wikipedia editor to delete any reference to Soros.
Similarly, Ramaswamy has bragged about building a successful multi-million dollar business when he was still an undergraduate in college while moonlighting as a lyric-belting Eminem-knock-off rapper. However, his tax returns show that he apparently sold that company for merely a few thousand dollars.
This opportunistic, dual Ivy-Leaguer with well-educated professional parents was so desperate to be recast as a populist that he sued the Davos World Economic Forum to purge him from the participant lists.
After CNN anchor Caitlin Collins revealed the falsehood of his denials of disgraceful statements implying 9/11 was an inside job, he called her “a petulant teenager.”
Obviously, he can’t handle the truth. Hopefully, Ramaswamy’s GOP rivals and political reporters can avoid his diversionary maneuvers–and focus on the truth.