President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet on the economic front is starting to take shape. In addition to announcing that Steven Mnuchin is going to be his Treasury Secretary, Trump has also announced that his pick for Commerce Secretary is billionaire investor Wilbur Ross.
Here are seven things you need to know about Ross.
1. Like Trump, Ross has spent most of his life as a registered Democrat. According to ABC News, Ross was registered as a Democrat in the 1990s, although he recently has tended to donate more to Republicans. Ben Shapiro has noted that “Ross was on the New York Democratic Committee and funded Bill Clinton.”
2. Ross has railed against free trade. Ross called the Trans-Pacific Partnership a “horrible deal in a recent interview on CNBC and criticized its “terrible rules of origin.”
In an August interview on CNBC, he criticized Hillary Clinton’s past support for free trade.
“Hillary Clinton can’t tell a good trade deal from bad one,” Ross said. “She was for NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], which has cost almost a million jobs.”
However, Ross did criticize Clinton for not supporting the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
It is interesting that Ross would criticize free trade given that…
3. Ross has benefited from free trade. Per the Wall Street Journal, Ross has benefited from selling companies to overseas investors and built factories in other countries, which are “the very methods Mr. Trump has promised to crack down on.”
Ross was called out on this in a recent CNBC interview, and he brushed it off by pivoting toward “dumb trade” he felt the United States had been engaged in.
4. Ross has been critical of some of Clinton’s domestic proposals during the campaign. Ross, along with Trump economic advisor Peter Navarro, wrote on CNBC that Clinton’s domestic proposals would be harmful to the economy.
“Clinton will raise taxes,” Ross and Navarro wrote. “Trump will cut taxes. Clinton will increase regulation. Trump will decrease regulation. Clinton has vowed to kill the coal industry. Trump will leverage America’s energy resources to create new jobs and growth.”
While broad, it does show that Ross appears to be in favor of a more pro-business economy.
5. Ross’s business acumen is built on buying failing businesses and turning them around–including Trump’s Taj Mahal casino. Ross is known as “the king of bankruptcies” for turning around businesses in various industries, including “steel, coal, and textiles industries,” according to The Daily Signal. Ross, along with Carl Icahn, “decided to restructure the bankruptcy filing in 1991,” per The Daily Signal, allowing Trump to keep his Taj Mahal casino. The casino officially closed in October.
6. Ross used to be married to former New York Lt. Governor Betsy McCaughey. McCaughey was the Republican lieutenant governor under Gov. George Pataki at the time she married Ross. However, Pataki eventually dropped McCaughey from the ticket in 1998, and she decided to run for the New York governor position as a Democrat. Ross had said he would fund it, but stopped doing so before the primary and the two were divorced in 2000.
7. Ross came under scrutiny in 2006 for a coal mine explosion. The explosion occurred at West Virginia’s Sage Mine; 12 workers perished from the blast. The mine was under the control of Ross’s International Coal Group, which was criticized for its safety measures. The company was sued for negligence, and a settlement was reached in 2011.
Ross released a statement saying it was “the worst day of my life.”
“I don’t know what is harder—trying to get to sleep at night with Sago hanging over me or getting up in the morning to face another day of internal sorrow and external criticism,” Ross said in the statement, per the Wall Street Journal.