Politico Tags 2013 as 'Year of the Liberal Billionaire'

Politico’s Alex Burns and Maggie Haberman have designated 2013 as “Year of the Liberal Billionaire,” as progressive titans like Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer unload their money bags on TV ads in off-year elections.

“Their arrival on the political scene, at the same time as many conservative donors remain disheartened from the GOP’s 2012 defeat, represents a shift in power in the arena of big-money campaigns,” Burns and Haberman assert. At least they allowed some more conservative sources to call out the media for giving liberal billionaires a free pass:

Republican strategist Michael Goldfarb, who has worked with a number of conservative super-donors, pointed out that spending by liberal-leaning billionaires hasn’t done much to advance their issues at the federal level, regardless of how much cash and soft media coverage their efforts have generated.

“I don’t begrudge Democrats doing whatever they can get away with, but the press hasn’t just given them a free pass – they actually give them favorable coverage for trying to buy elections,” Goldfarb said. “Gun control, immigration, global warming – the GOP is losing everywhere and liberal billionaires still can’t move the ball an inch.”

Chris Cox, who heads the National Rifle Association’s political arm, wondered where the media outrage is about Bloomberg using his personal fortune to wipe out the contributions of small donors in the pro-gun community.

“It’s very clear that if the financial backers’ agenda fits the agenda of the national media and those on the left, there’s one set of rules,” Cox said. “Somehow we’re an outside group and should be ashamed of ourselves. When Mayor Bloomberg spends at least six figures, that’s OK.”

Then there’s the circular phenomenon of media mogul Bloomberg devoting promotional articles in Bloomberg Businessweek to Tom Steyer, and on and on the gushing goes.


Burns and Haberman begin with Clintonista strategist Chris Lehane, the one who’s inflating this publicity balloon:

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane, Steyer’s top adviser, predicted that more liberal super-donors would come forward over the next election cycle and ante up for progressive causes.

“Based on the conversations we’ve had and the interest we’ve had, I think there’s no question that’s going to happen,” Lehane said. “People have looked at what’s happened over the last three or four cycles, and it seemed to them that it’s very important to get involved.”

Naturally, Lehane thinks these men are compassionate givers, not selfish takers:

Lehane argued that there’s a categorical difference between big spenders like Bloomberg and Steyer, and the ultra-prolific donors on the GOP side in 2012: “The folks who are involved on the Democratic side are not necessarily folks who have a direct financial interest in the policies they are advocating for.”

“The fossil fuel industry spends, probably, more in an hour influencing the political process than Tom has over the course of these campaigns,” Lehane added. “The best solution here is to actually have a political situation where access to resources does not determine who wins and loses. That’s just not the situation right now.”

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis