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Andrew Mellon was one of the most successful venture capitalists in American history. Though not a politician by trade, he associated with prominent Pennsylvania Republicans (Secretary of State and Senator Philander Knox, for example). Largely through their influence, Warren Harding nominated Mellon to be Secretary of the Treasury on his first day in office:

Mellon was a staunch opponent of progressive taxation (he was the third richest man in America, after all). He was the face of America’s financial system in the 1920s. He presided over a period of great economic growth but refused to consider fiscal stimulus measures when the Depression struck.

Mellon’s also the father of the National Gallery of Art. Having accumulated an extravagant art collection over the years, he created the A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust. Mellon “donated” $40 million worth of paintings to this nonprofit. He then subtracted the value of these paintings from his income and paid proportionally lower taxes. Faced with prosecution for tax fraud, Mellon promised his massive collection to the federal government for the creation of a national art gallery. (You can read more about this episode in Chapter 10 of Noah Feldman’s Scorpions.)

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