Opinion | Welcome to D.C., Peter Thiel. Is Elon Musk Next?

Why do they arrive? Inexplicably, wealthy individuals appear drawn to different wealthy individuals and need to dwell amongst their very own variety. However for many of them, Washington was their winter house throughout the “social season” outlined by the month Congress was in session, a spot of balls, receptions, dinners, dances, debutante unveilings, events, musical performances and different status-reflecting occasions.

As Stephen A. Hansen writes in his definitive A Historical past of Dupont Circle: Middle of Excessive Society within the Capital, the rich flocked to Washington to construct their grand properties within the Dupont Circle environs and constructed them and constructed them till there was no land left. The draw wasn’t the surroundings or the climate however energy. The federal authorities was increasing then as now. The place there weren’t outright authorities concessions and contracts to be gained, there have been legal guidelines, insurance policies and treaties that could possibly be original to the financial benefit of a plutocrat, and all of these social occasions positioned the gilded millionaires within the proximity of the senators, representatives and bureaucrats authoring these highly effective paperwork.

Take Bezos, for instance. Not to take something away from his enterprise, however his empire bathes in authorities largesse. His Blue Origin area firm has been battling Musk on Capitol Hill for up to $10 billion in government contracts for NASA’s next moon-lander. He’s been combating Microsoft for one more $10 billion contract to provide cloud computing services for the feds. Employing almost 1 million people, he wants a ring-side seat in governmental discussions about office regulation. The identical goes for his logistics operations and his ambitions to present drone deliveries.

Thiel, who endorsed Trump for president in 2016 and spoke at his nominating conference, has his personal authorities contracts to handle. He’s the co-founder of the “big-analytics” firm, Palantir, that just lately secured an $823 million contract from the U.S. Military. Palantir additionally does work for different government operations, together with ICE and the intelligence institution, and received capital from the CIA’s In-Q-Tel enterprise capital division. If there’s an enormous desk in Washington the place offers are dealt, Thiel, like Bezos, needs a seat at it. What higher manner to woo town’s political class than with receptions and dinners at your palace the place you possibly can commerce gossip with different politicos and billionaires? What higher vantage for Thiel to assess his marketing campaign investments in GOP Senate candidates J.D. Vance and Blake Masters ($10 million every) than a compound of 1’s personal in Washington?

Why shouldn’t Musk purchase a spot right here? He has won billions in government contracts for his SpaceX company and tons of of hundreds of thousands of subsidies for his Photo voltaic Metropolis agency. If not for presidency handouts, Musk’s Tesla most likely wouldn’t exist. “A lot of its present earnings are thanks to the sale of presidency regulatory credit to different, conventional automakers, which allowed them to preserve making gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs fairly than cut back their emissions,” Zachary B. Wolf wrote for CNN final month.

At the moment, just a few of the Gilded Age fortresses stay. Most have been demolished to make manner for workplace buildings. Others have turn into house to foundations or unique golf equipment (the Cosmos Club) or bought to overseas nations and transformed into embassies. One particularly grand one, the Patterson Mansion, constructed by a Chicago writer, has been chopped up into luxurious flats. However just a few premium castles nonetheless stay and from which the wealthy conduct their enterprise. And I do imply enterprise. Just like the royal residents of the Gilded Age, the fashionable rich are solely seasonal guests to their palatial properties right here. No actual “dwelling” is completed of their dwelling rooms. These non permanent residences are expressions of their financial and political standing. Consider these properties as being like factories or workplaces or warehouses elsewhere, a spot to do the grubby work of mingling and deal-making with the highly effective and to show dominance, no extra.

The Washington mansion by no means defines the tycoon, however then as now, it does full him.


“It’s not a home it’s a house,” Bob Dylan as soon as sang. Ship actual property suggestions to [email protected]. My email alerts dwell in a duck shack. My Twitter feed in an Airbnb. My RSS feed lives in a big ceramic jar.

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