Aug 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Musk tells GOP elite to be more compassionate

Elon Musk
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Elon Musk told GOP congressional leaders and big-dollar donors on Tuesday that Republicans need to present a more compassionate front to voters and appeal to immigrants like himself, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: While Musk has been publicly flirting with the Republican Party all year, his attendance at an exclusive GOP retreat in Wyoming marks a new level of involvement in helping the party define its agenda and prepare for its potential takeover of the House.

Driving the news: Musk offered a robust defense of capitalism in addition to some political advice at House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's annual donor retreat in Jackson, where the billionaire CEO of Tesla was a personal guest of McCarthy’s.

  • With the Grand Tetons behind them, the potential next Speaker of the House led a Q&A session with the potential next owner of Twitter.
  • McCarthy has built a relationship with Musk over a decade and introduced him as the "Thomas Edison of our time," framing the discussion around how he built successful companies like Tesla and SpaceX.
  • Across the state, primary voters were rejecting Rep. Liz Cheney, who by the end of the night would be overwhelmingly defeated by her Trump-backed challenger.

What they're saying: Musk suggested that the country would prosper if Republicans "stayed out of people's bedrooms" and Democrats stayed "out of people’s wallets," according to attendees.

  • He celebrated free markets and warned of the dangers of socialism — messages that were well-received by the audience.
  • Asked by a donor what the Republican Party needed to do better, the South-African born Musk replied that it should be more compassionate to potential newcomers, noting that he chose America because of its opportunities. Immigrants, he said, are vital to maintaining a dynamic economy.
  • Before the dinner, Musk tweeted: "To be clear, I support the left half of the Republican Party and the right half of the Democratic Party!"
  • Representatives for Musk and McCarthy did not respond to requests for comment on Musk's private comments.

Between the lines: Musk, who has hinted he likes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president in 2024 and voted Republican for the first time in his life when he pulled the lever for Rep. Mayra Flores in a June special congressional election in Texas, didn’t declare himself a Republican compatriot.

  • Some donors left the dinner at the home of John Nau — the CEO of Silver Eagle Beverages, a massive Anheuser-Busch distributor — convinced that Musk was a kindred spirit, but perhaps not yet a committed conservative.
  • Republicans have vowed to crack down on Big Tech if they take the majority — especially social media platforms like Twitter, which Musk is currently battling in a Delaware court after pulling the plug on his acquisition.
  • They've also downplayed the need to take action on climate change, which Musk has dedicated his career to fighting.

The bottom line: Musk didn’t leave the impression that he’d be writing checks to either the Congressional Leadership Fund, McCarthy’s PAC, or Republican campaign committees.

  • He did, however, complain about his $11 billion tax bill for selling Tesla stock — drawing chuckles from the audience with his claim that the IRS didn’t really know how to process it.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that Musk is the CEO of Tesla, not the founder. It was also updated with additional details on Musk's message.

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