One of these men was John Catsimatidis. On his own website, Catsimatidis describes himself as the “personification of the American dream.” Dropping out of NYU to throw hope into the supermarket business, Catsimatidis opened his first Red Apple supermarket in the Upper West Side in 1969. In two years time and only 24 years old, he had opened ten across Upper Manhattan and was making $25 million. The rest is investment, real estate and property re-selling history. (According to Forbes, he’s now worth around $2 billion).
And, that night, he told The Daily Beast that he and his fellow profit-seekers were “fighting for the soul of America.” The Voice spoke with Mr. Catsimatidis and asked him what this soul-searching election was really all about.
“Washington is smoking grass,” Catsimatidis told me over the phone, “This [Obama] administration is 100% wrong.”
So how did Red Apple make all that money with Gristede-level prices? The hodgepodge company is invested in “oil & gas operations (refines oil; convenience stores; real estate; supermarkets” because nothing goes together better than Slim Jim’s and crude oil.
The “oil & gas operations” lies in Catsimatidis’s ownership of United Refining Company – a Pennsylvania-based industrial gas marketer that has a huge operation running out of 823 11th Avenue. The company pushed a profit of $2.3 million in 2009 and continues to ship about 70,000 barrels before you even wake up in the morning.
Over the past few years, Catsimatidis has been throwing around chump change to both Democratic and Republican candidates – from Charles Rangel to Olympia Snowe, the donations range from $1,000 to $2,500. But that’s his individual contributions: when he’s donated to Restore Our Future, he has used the Big Oil guise of United Refining to give over $50,000 to the Republican candidate.
Why? Because, in Catsimatidis’s opinion, the current administration is not oily enough. “Have you ever seen our commercials? Our company [United Refining] brags our gasoline is made from 100% American oil. Trust me, people believe in buying American. Drill more in Canada, the U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico – we could turn around our deficit and become completely energy independent.”
Catsimatidis’s main beef with the Oval Office revolves around a European-style gas tax – a proposal that, like many other campaign promises made, Obama has toyed around with half-heartedly. But the petroluem fine has fallen flat on its face in the EPA-killing eyes of a Republican-led House (the grass-smoking Washington that Catsimatidis was referring to before). Whether it will proliferate in the coming years or not, the millionaire is convinced that a Romney administration will simply “do better” by preventing an excise tax that doesn’t even exist yet.
Hence the $50,000 treasure chest. Start pumping.