|Raj Peter Bhakta|
December 7, 1975 |
Raj Peter Bhakta (born December 7, 1975 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an entrepreneur and American public figure. Bhakta was a contestant on the second season of the reality show The Apprentice. He won the Republican Party's endorsement for a seat in the United States House of Representatives from Pennsylvania's 13th district, but lost to incumbent Democrat Allyson Schwartz.
- 1 Upbringing and education
- 2 Business background
- 3 The Apprentice
- 4 Political engagement and commentary
- 5 2006 Congressional campaign
- 6 GoAmericaGo
- 7 Current business initiatives
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes and references
- 10 External links
Upbringing and education
Born to a Hindu Indian father and Irish mother, Bhakta moved from Northeast Philadelphia's Oxford Circle to Blue Bell, Pennsylvania where he grew up. After graduating from The Hill School in 1994, Raj Bhakta earned bachelor's degrees in Economics and History with a concentration in Finance from Boston College in 1998.
Bhakta began his career working at the investment banking firm of Violy & Co. in New York. Bhakta went on to found Automovia, a firm focused on creating cutting edge technology related to the valuation of pre-owner vehicles. Thereafter, he led the Apex Vail redevelopment project in Vail, CO which resulted in an increase on property revenue by over 300%.
In the fall of 2004, Bhakta appeared on the second season of the business oriented reality television show, The Apprentice. Bhakta was remembered for his witty discourse and appreciation of the opposite sex, famously trying to take Anna Kournikova and Donald Trump's assistant on dates. Bhakta was fired by Trump on the ninth week of the show. His relations with the opposite sex subsequently became fodder for gossip columns such as New York Post's Page Six and his frequent donning of bow ties has been credited with a revival in bow tie sales.
Political engagement and commentary
After appearing on the Apprentice, Bhakta utilized his public platform to support social security reform in meetings with Congressional leadership. Bhakta was also a frequent guest on MSNBC and Fox News and appeared on CNN's Crossfire.
2006 Congressional campaign
With the support of Tom Ellis, the Republican chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners," he sought and won the Republican nomination for the 13th congressional district. Bhakta received over 75,000 votes, ultimately losing to incumbent Democrat Allyson Schwartz by over thirty points. His campaign raised more than $480,000. Bhakta's campaign generated significant national media attention as a consequence of Bhakta's background on the "Apprentice," his attention-getting campaign maneuvers and his reputation as a bon vivant.
Bhakta struggled during the 2006 campaign against a powerful anti-GOP tide fueled by the unpopular presidency of George W. Bush, an unpopular war in Iraq, a slowing economy.
Campaign issues: crime in Philadelphia, border security, and media attention
Bhakta made law and order a focus of his campaign in Northeast Philadelphia. Following reports of heightened crime in the city, Bhakta laid out a position offering more police on the streets, halting or eliminating Section 8, and using Homeland Security funds for crime prevention. Bhakta also blamed Mayor John Street for failing to hire more police officers in the face of increasing murder rates in the city.
Bhakta often criticized Schwartz for refusing to debate during the campaign. Bhakta initially challenged Schwartz to twelve debates, six in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and six in Northeast Philadelphia as well as on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Northeast Times, a local newspaper, also offered to host debates. However, Schwartz did not accept any debate invitations.
On October 10, 2006, Bhakta illustrated the ease of crossing the United States-Mexico border by riding an elephant along the border for ninety minutes with a six-man mariachi band playing. Neither Bhakta, the elephant, nor the mariachi band broke the law by crossing the border, remaining on private property along the Rio Grande Texas. Bhakta stated that he got the idea by seeing a Mexican illegally crossing the border by wading across the Rio Grande. Bhakta had a camera to record the man's illegal crossing, and succeeded in getting the man detained by border authorities.
The demonstration garnered national attention for Bhakta's campaign. Bhakta was interviewed by Bill O'Reilly, Rita Cosby, Glenn Beck, and John Gibson. "This is not about the poor Mexican immigrant who wants to come for a better life that's the real problem here," Bhakta said. He added, "The border security is a joke and this is a creative and very effective way of showing it."
On November 7, 2006, the Philadelphia Daily News reported that Bhakta's campaign made "stunning" automated campaign calls to homes in Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County detailing the charges in 18 lawsuits against the abortion clinic founded by Schwartz.
After the Congressional race, Bhakta traveled widely in Asia - a trip he credits with reaffirming his concern with the challenges facing America's long-term global position as the world's foremost economic power. "Raj feels that the United States is losing its preeminence more quickly than most realize, requiring urgent economic and diplomatic reforms." To that end, he started a blog, GoAmericaGo.
Current business initiatives
In 2010 Bhakta founded WhistlePig Whiskey, a small batch producer of rye whiskey, and has purchased an organic farm in Vermont to raise grain for whiskey production. According to recent news reports in Colombia and the US, he has begun importing a native Colombian drink, known locally as aguardiente, to the US under the name of Petro.
Notes and references
- "Raj Bhakta's Biography on TV.com". Retrieved 2006-06-11.
- "The Apprentice 2 NBC Homepage". Retrieved 2006-07-31.
- Sheehan, Jennifer (2005-08-15). "Bow Ties Come Bouncing Back into Fashion". Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal.
- "CNN.com". CNN. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- "CNN.com - Elections 2006". CNN. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- "Philadelphia Inquirer".
- "Will She or Won't She?".
- ""A Bold Move" by William Rice".
- "Mother Jones article".
- "Interview with Bill O'Reilly".
- "Interview with Rita Cosby".
- "Interview with Glenn Beck".
- "Interview with John Gibson".