Whose money are the 2020 hopefuls gunning for?
Photo: Patrick McMullan/Bloomberg Philanthropies/Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia
It’s a weird time to be a liberal billionaire. Almost all of the Democratic presidential candidates have sworn off help from super-PACs and made a big show of rejecting cash from a wide range of potential donors: lobbyists, corporate PACs, and pharma execs included. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have ruled out headlining closed-door fund-raisers altogether.
But that doesn’t mean the moguls of the left aren’t watching the race closely. Some rich progressives are looking at ways to sway the primaries, and others are biding their time until a nominee emerges. Still, while Hillary Clinton had decades-long relationships with some of the party’s biggest contributors last time around — like investor Haim Saban, who has sent Democrats tens of millions of dollars over the years and stayed in close touch with Clinton throughout her campaign — few of today’s candidates have those friendships. And the donor pool has changed since 2016 with the arrival of a handful of tycoons who have woken up to politics in the Trump era, like Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz (see below), and with the departure of others, like J. B. Pritzker of the Hyatt-hotel family, who’s no longer a megadonor because he got a new job (as the governor of Illinois). While none of the available contributors have shown a willingness to go full Sheldon Adelson (who has given $300 million-plus in donations to Republican candidates and groups in federal elections since 2012, according to Center for Responsive Politics’ analyses of Federal Election Commission data) or Koch brothers (with their own sprawling political empire), here are the ones who could have the most sway over the coming year in both the primaries and the general election, according to campaign veterans and a review of donation records.
Wanted to run for president, settled for being the party’s most influential outside force instead.
Photo: Bloomberg Philanthropies/Wikimedia
The former mayor made no secret of his desire to run in 2020, but he let reality win and has instead been making noise about spending half a billion dollars on a wide-ranging political machine dedicated to booting Trump. The onetime Republican and independent has plowed at least $160 million into Democratic groups and candidates since 2012. He seems unlikely to spend on the primaries, but he’s known to like Joe Biden and to have deep suspicions about Sanders and Warren. Speaking in Iowa earlier this month at a forum organized by the gun-reform groups he funds, he joked about Warren’s anti-corporate message: “Just to remind you, if my company hadn’t been successful, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Wanted to be the party’s most influential outside force, settled for running for president instead.
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia
No super-donor has been more of a thorn in the party Establishment’s side than Steyer since he started throwing money into Democratic politics ahead of the 2014 midterms. He has spent more on the left since then — at least $240 million through last year — than anyone else, but a huge portion of that has gone to his own political groups. Now he has decided to run for president after initially passing on a campaign earlier this year. Other Democrats aren’t expecting him to get too far, and they’ll be holding out their hands for the former hedge-funder’s remaining cash as soon as he bows out. Still, the candidate he’s had the most positive things to say about, Warren, has criticized the billionaire’s presence in the race.
The left’s most prominent benefactor.
Photo: Patrick McMullan
Soros gives democrats and left-leaning organizations a lot of money — over $40 million to federal candidates and groups since 2015 alone — but he’s not just in demand because of his wallet. A longtime bogeyman on the right who was targeted by Trumpist Cesar Sayoc’s pipe bombs in 2018, Soros is an influential voice on the global stage whose word is followed closely by other wealthy Democratic donors looking for cues on where to invest. And he has never been afraid to speak his mind about candidates — he soured on Obama during his first term, and he has criticized Kirsten Gillibrand for her stand against Al Franken.
One of the least-known Facebook co-founders, he has had a political awakening in recent years.
Photo: Bart Nagel/
Almost no one in Democratic politics knew Moskovitz until 2016, when, horrified by Trump, he opened his checkbook. The longtime entrepreneur and philanthropist and his wife, Cari Tuna, donated over $30 million to Democrats in 2016 and 2018 and more to nonpartisan political groups focused on voter-registration pushes and the like. Candidates and party leaders are increasingly wary of raking in too much money from tech leaders, like Moskovitz’s former colleagues atop Facebook, but they view the 35-year-old as an exception and one of their potential saviors.
Three low-profile magnates who give more to Dems than almost anyone else.
Clockwise from left: Simons, Eychener, and Sussmann. Photo: Ted Talk; Stevens Clarke/wikimedia.
Clockwise from left: Simons, Eychener, and Sussmann. Photo: Ted Talk; Stevens Clarke/wikimedia.
You don’t have any idea who these guys are, do you? They’re mostly okay with that. Sussman (a hedge-fund manager who gave Democrats around $74 million from Obama’s reelection through last year’s midterms), Eychaner (a Chicago media don, $75 million), and Simons (a hedge-fund pioneer, $67 million) are hardly household names, and they’ve shown little interest in becoming Steyer- or Bloomberg-style celebrities. (You may be more familiar with Simons’s ex–co–chief executive Robert Mercer, one of Trump’s biggest boosters.) But all three are at the top of practically every Dem fund-raiser’s wish list after doling out huge amounts to both Obama and Clinton.
The onetime GOP megadonor offers Dems moderate cred, if they’re into that kind of thing.
Karman is in a somewhat different category. The Boston hedge-fund guru doesn’t have a long history of writing showstopping checks, but after years of donating to Republicans, he started giving lots to Democrats following Trump’s election. He gave nearly $6 million in 2018 alone. For Dem candidates eager to stick it to Trump or to prove they can reach out to former Republicans, Klarman’s support could prove invaluable. Not that he’s your average swing voter, of course.
*This article appears in the August 19, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!
Last year the Kavanaugh nomination was rammed through the Senate without a thorough examination of the allegations against him. Confirmation is not exoneration, and these newest revelations are disturbing. Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached.
I sat through those hearings. Brett Kavanaugh lied to the U.S. Senate and most importantly to the American people. He was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached.
Yesterday, we learned of another accusation against Brett Kavanaugh—one we didn’t find out about before he was confirmed because the Senate forced the F.B.I. to rush its investigation to save his nomination. We know he lied under oath. He should be impeached.
A gruesome discovery which will fuel the anti-abortion movement
More than 2,000 medically preserved fetal remains were found at a deceased abortion provider’s Illinois home Thursday by his family as they sorted through his belongings, authorities said.
A lawyer for Ulrich “George” Klopfer’s family called the Will County Coroner’s Office that afternoon to report that the family had found what appeared to be fetal remains, the county sheriff said in a statement. Klopfer, who died Sept. 3, worked for decades at the Women’s Pavilion clinic in South Bend, Ind., and at clinics in Gary and Fort Wayne.
Investigators arrived at Klopfer’s home and found 2,246 fetal remains, according to the sheriff’s office. The coroner’s office took possession of them. No evidence indicates that medical procedures were performed at Klopfer’s home, and his family is cooperating with the investigation, the sheriff’s office said. No other information was immediately available.
Klopfer is considered Indiana’s “most prolific” abortion doctor, with tens of thousands of procedures performed, the South Bend Tribune reported. The state suspended his medical license in 2016 for failing to exercise reasonable care and for violating notice and documentation requirements, the Tribune reported. The Women’s Pavilion shut down the same year.
More corroboration for one of the sexual misconduct claims against Justice Kavanaugh (and evidence he perjured himself during his Senate testimony)
While we found Dr. Ford’s allegations credible during a 10-month investigation, [Deborah] Ramirez’s story could be more fully corroborated. During his Senate testimony, Mr. Kavanaugh said that if the incident Ms. Ramirez described had occurred, it would have been “the talk of campus.” Our reporting suggests that it was.
At least seven people, including Ms. Ramirez’s mother, heard about the Yale incident long before Mr. Kavanaugh was a federal judge. Two of those people were classmates who learned of it just days after the party occurred, suggesting that it was discussed among students at the time.
We also uncovered a previously unreported story about Mr. Kavanaugh in his freshman year that echoes Ms. Ramirez’s allegation. A classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student. Mr. Stier, who runs a nonprofit organization in Washington, notified senators and the F.B.I. about this account, but the F.B.I. did not investigate and Mr. Stier has declined to discuss it publicly. (We corroborated the story with two officials who have communicated with Mr. Stier.)
The nation’s top intelligence official is illegally withholding a whistleblower complaint, possibly to protect President Donald Trump or senior White House officials, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff alleged Friday.
Schiff issued a subpoena for the complaint, accusing acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire of taking extraordinary steps to withhold the complaint from Congress, even after the intel community’s inspector general characterized the complaint as credible and of “urgent concern.”
“A Director of National Intelligence has never prevented a properly submitted whistleblower complaint that the [inspector general] determined to be credible and urgent from being provided to the congressional intelligence committees. Never,” Schiff said in a statement. “This raises serious concerns about whether White House, Department of Justice or other executive branch officials are trying to prevent a legitimate whistleblower complaint from reaching its intended recipient, the Congress, in order to cover up serious misconduct.”
Schiff indicated that he learned the matter involved “potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community,” raising the specter that it is “being withheld to protect the President or other Administration officials.”
Reminder: the U.S. has gone to war to protect Saudi oil
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group on Saturday attacked two plants at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility, in a strike that three sources said had disrupted output and exports.
Two sources close to the matter said 5 million barrels per day of crude production had been impacted — close to half of the kingdom’s output or 5% of global oil supply.
The pre-dawn drone attack on the Saudi Aramco facilities set off several fires, although the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, later said these were brought under control.
Candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination are sprinting from coast to coast in search of campaign donations over the next 18 days, moving urgently to stockpile cash for their big fall push — and to avoid a death spiral that a weak third-quarter fundraising tally might prompt. …
Still, Democratic donors have expressed nervousness in recent weeks that some presidential hopefuls could post disappointing totals, compounding the candidates’ broader struggles. July and August tend to be slow for fundraising, with many people on vacation and tuned out of politics. The large and unpredictably fluid field also has made it difficult for donors to commit to a candidate.
“The third quarter number, from a finance standpoint, will define the narrative throughout the course of the fall, when these questions about viability for so many of the candidates are so real, especially in the second and third tiers,” said Rufus Gifford, the finance director for Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaignand a donor to at least three candidates so far this year.
While MIT engages in damage control following revelations the university’s Media Lab accepted millions of dollars in funding from Jeffrey Epstein, a renowned computer scientist at the university has fanned the flames by apparently going out of his way to defend the accused sex trafficker—and child pornography in general.
Richard Stallman has been hailed as one of the most influential computer scientists around today and honored with a slew of awards and honorary doctorates, but his eminence in the academic computer science community came into question Friday afternoon when purportedly leaked email excerpts showed him suggesting one of Epstein’s alleged victims was “entirely willing.”
An MIT engineering alumna, Selam Jie Gano, published a blog post calling for Stallman’s removal from the university in light of his comments, along with excerpts from the email in which Stallman appeared to defend both Epstein and Marvin Minsky, a lauded cognitive scientist and founder of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab who was accused of assaulting Virginia Giuffre.
Ed Markey, facing a primary from a Kennedy, gets a major endorsement
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the young liberal icon from New York, has endorsed Senator Ed Markey’s reelection bid next year, as Representative Joe Kennedy III considers challenging Markey for what promises to be the nation’s most competitive congressional primary.
Ocasio-Cortez and Markey have worked together as the primary sponsors of the Green New Deal, the signature legislative issue for both lawmakers.
ABC’s coverage of the 10-candidate forum draws the largest preliminary ratings for any debate so far this cycle.
ABC and Univision scored strong ratings Thursday with their coverage of the third Democratic presidential primary debate.
The debate, featuring 10 candidates and current frontrunners Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren sharing the stage for the first time, drew a 10.0 household rating in Nielsen’s 56 metered markets. That’s 23 percent higher than the 8.1 NBC got for part two of the first debate on June 27, but about 25 percent lower than combined metered-market average for NBC and MSNBC. That telecast ended up with 18.1 million viewers across NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.
Beginning speech to Concerned Women of America, @SecPompeo says “this is such a beautiful hotel. The guy who owns it must gonna be successful along the way,” he says, without mentioning @realDonaldTrump by name. “That was for the Washington Post,” he says of his remark. pic.twitter.com/vPYp9vYE9y
Child care, a key issue for many Americans, is getting little attention at the debates
Millions of Americans struggle to find decent, affordable child care every year. But when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tried to bring up the subject during Thursday’s Democratic debate, in response to a question about education, a moderator cut her off.
“Start with our babies by providing universal child care for every baby age 0 to 5, universal pre-K for every 3-year-old and 4-year-old in this country,” Warren said, just getting on a roll when ABC moderator Linsey Davis interrupted. “Thank you, senator,” Davis said.
Davis was just following the rules: Warren’s time for the response had lapsed. But the moment was a perfect metaphor for the attention child care and other work-family issues have gotten in these debates ― or, more accurately, the attention they have not gotten in these debates.