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Obama and Musk
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shows President Barack Obama around the company’s Cape Canaveral rocket processing site in 2010. (Credit: Bill Ingalls / NASA)

SpaceX’s billionaire founder, Elon Musk, has had to bat down all sorts of reports about political associations over the past couple of weeks – and the strategy that seems to work the best is to get people talking about sending humans to Mars. Maybe including the politicians.

The political angle cropped up in February when the Center for Responsive Politics listed SpaceX as one of the donors to GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump. It turned out that the listing was an error, later corrected, but Musk found himself having to deny the Trump contributions via Twitter.

For what it’s worth, SpaceX does donate to congressional campaigns: The center’s breakdown for the 2016 election cycle shows that most of the money goes to Republicans in the House ($56,000 vs. $29,500 for Democrats) and to Democrats in the Senate ($16,000 vs. $13,000 for Republicans). Those proportions are in line with the balance of power in each chamber.

Musk has personally contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians over the years, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Marco Rubio, George W. Bush and John Kerry. The Bush-Kerry combination illustrates how Musk plays both sides of the aisle when it comes to political donations.

Just as the brouhaha over the Trump report blew over, another tempest was stirred up over The Huffington Post’s report about the American Enterprise Institute’s annual World Forum, which was conducted last weekend on Sea Island, Ga. The main topic at the secretive meeting was reportedly a strategy for stopping Trump’s march to the GOP nomination, and Musk was listed among the forum’s attendees.

Some folks inferred that Musk was in on the stop-Trump movement, forcing another round of Twitter denials from Musk as well as forum moderators, Marc Thiessen:

Musk’s assigned topic for the forum was to talk about the future of innovation, policies that can best promote economic dynamism, and future prospects for multinational trade pacts. But the Mars angle was the one that perked up the ears of outsiders. SpaceX fans are still waiting for Musk to unveil his blueprint for sending colonists to Mars, and it could be that attendees at the AEI World Forum got an off-the-record preview.

Who knows? Maybe the Mars plan will be revealed in time to have an effect on Trump’s political campaign:

It’s worth noting that Trump already has been offered a ride to the final frontier, on one of the Blue Origin rocket ships being built with backing from Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos. Presidential race or space race? We report, you decide.

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