Christen Sveaas, the highly successful businessman and investor known for his charitable cntributions, is also donating millions to the election campaigns of Norway’s non-socialist parties. He has donated more than any other individual during the run-up to the September 9 elections, in his eagerness to support a change of government.
Newspaper Dagsavisen had already reported earlier this summer how Sveaas has donated NOK 2.5 million (USD 416,000) to Norway’s Conservative Party. On Tuesday the paper reported that Sveaas also has donated NOK 1.5 million to the more conservative Progress Party, which may win government power for the first time through a coalition with the Conservatives.
Sveaas also has donated NOK 1 million to the non-socialist Liberal Party (Venstre), three times the amount of all its other campaign donations together (NOK 350,000).
Sveaas, who also has financially supported gay causes along with a long list of other charitable, educational and cultural ventures for years, stopped short, though, in supporting the fourth non-socialist party that also may join a Conservatives-led coalition, the Christian Democrats. They could only report one relatively large contribution of NOK 75,000 along with smaller contributions that together amounted to NOK 65,000, according to the party’s communications chief Mona Høvset.
Apparently not so ‘boring’ now
It’s the current campaign of the Conservative Party (Høyre), during which party leader Erna Solberg has been flying around Norway in a helicopter, that Sveaas was most willing to fund prior to this election despite his criticism that Høyre was “boring” before the last parliamentary election in 2009. At that time, he gave the Progress Party NOK 2 million and Høyre only got NOK 1 million.
Sveaas declined to elaborate on why he had more than doubled his financial support for Høyre this time, but Høyre’s communications director Sigbjørn Aanes has said he thinks it’s because “record numbers want to contribute towards getting a change in government.” Aanes added that many wealthy investors and businessmen (men top the lists of those who donate heavily to political campaigns in Norway) also want to “compensate” for the millions donated to the parties on the left over the years, especially the Labour Party.
“For many this is about making sure that parties that don’t get support from the labour organizations will be able to run an election campaign,” Aanes told Dagsavisen last month.
Labour activists counter that the wealthy donors such as Sveaas and Stein Erik Hagen, who has donated around NOK 2 million to the Conservatives and NOK 500,000 to the Progress Party through his company Canica AS, may get a handsome return on their investment if the Conservatives win. Solberg and the party support major cuts in the country’s tax on net worth (formueskatt), and Dagsavisen has estimated Sveaas, Hagen and many other wealthy political donors would save millions on their tax bills if the Conservatives and the Progress Party take over.
Meanwhile, another one of Norway’s wealthiest businessmen and investors, Olav Thon, paid for full-page ads in major Norwegian newspapers on Tuesday to explain why he planned to vote for the Progress Party. Thon nurtures a folksey, modest image and has donated heavily over the years to the mountain trekking association DNT, but he thinks a vote for the Progress Party will make it easier for the Conservatives’ platform to prevail because the two could form a government led by the Conservatives, without having to pay attention to opposing viewpoints on several key issues from the Liberals or the Christian Democrats.
The 90-year-old Thon also said that he’s confident that getting the Progress Party into government for the first time will help reduce bureaucracy, improve elder care, encourage personal initiative and help youth have more possibilities for building their future. Thon, whose hotels employ significant numbers of immigrant labour, also wrote in his ad that the Progress Party “stands for sustainable immigration policies,” without elaborating on that, and that he thinks the Progress Party’s program is “sensible.”