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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Wilbur Ross — another Trump pick known in NY elite circles

President-elect Donald Trump, left, stands with investor Wilbur

President-elect Donald Trump, left, stands with investor Wilbur Ross at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J., Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster

For a while, the name Wilbur Ross held tangential meaning in New York politics. Back in 1995, he wed then-Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, which began what turned out to be a three-year marriage.

In those days a bankruptcy guru with Rothschild Inc., Ross also played a walk-on role at City Hall. He served as then-GOP Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s adviser on restructuring the bi-state Port Authority, a goal that never came close to happening.

Like Donald Trump, who nominated him for secretary of commerce, Ross in earlier days contributed heavily to Democrats, but changed course.

Last summer, Ross served as one of a few dozen state vice chairs for Trump and the Republican National Committee and co-hosted a big Hamptons fundraiser for the real estate heir-turned-politician.

Like his likely boss-to-be, Ross, who is now 79, once saw his social doings described on tabloid gossip pages.

Some of Ross’s past dealings -- like Trump's -- stand to become lightning rods for criticism, especially now that he faces a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday.

For example, Labor Department data reviewed by Reuters showed that his private equity interests outsourced 2,700 jobs in auto parts, textiles and finance starting in 2004.

Like other Trump Cabinet choices, Ross has expressed views that diverge from what the president-elect proclaimed in campaign rallies and debates.

For example, Politico reported that years after using a tariff on imported steel to fend off Chinese competition and help his American mills survive, Ross was “a devoted Sinophile.”

“I think the China-bashing is wildly overdone in this country,” Ross said on CNBC in 2012. Four years later, a White House-bound Trump boomed that China was “raping this country” economically.

Like Trump, Ross appreciates the economic benefits of fossil fuels, having invested hundreds of millions of dollars in distressed oil and gas companies. A 2006 collapse that trapped 13 coal miners, killing 12, occurred in West Virginia’s Sago mine, owned by Ross’ International Coal Group.

Trump’s tough-on-immigration stance helped drive his campaign. But Ross supports increasing the number of visas for tech professionals.

“Not everybody who wants to emigrate here is a drug dealer or somebody who is going to be a burden,” Ross said in a 2010 TV interview.

Of course, Ross wasn’t the candidate and won’t be the president.

The same goes for that claque of top-level Trump nominees who had been steeped in careers at Goldman Sachs, derided as an elite institution in populistic Trump campaign ads.

Trump’s response to what some see as a disconnect has essentially been that he’s hiring top people to carry out his promised reforms.

“We want them to be themselves,” he said the other day. “I told them, ‘Be yourself, and say what you want to say, don’t worry about me.’ I’m going to do the right thing, whatever it is. I may be right, they may be right.”

The Cabinet picks may not sound like the fruit of a populist revolt. But we’ll see, starting Friday.


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