Air America, George Soros, Mike McCurry, Peter Lewis, Democracy Alliance
Soros, Lewis In Air America Election-Year Rescue
Exclusive to The Radio Equalizer
(For updates, please see our main page)
By Brian Maloney
Could this be Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo's lucky day?
As crucial midterm congressional elections approach, can America's "progressive" leaders really afford to let an ailing liberal talk radio network die?
Apparently, the answer to the first question is yes, to the second, no, the Radio Equalizer has learned.
Through an emergency bailout plan, a coalition of wealthy liberal political activists are poised to at least temporarily save Air America Radio. On the way: as much as $8 million in sorely-needed cash to fund ongoing operations.
With particular support from San Francisco and Silicon Valley multimillionaires, the group has an unusual number of contributors from outside the Beltway.
According to Human Events, the organization's key members include:
|Rob Stein||Founder/director||Former chief of staff to Clinton Commerce Secretary Ron Brown|
|Andrew Rappaport||Founder/investor||Silicon Valley investor|
|Simon Rosenberg||Founder||President, New Democrat Network|
|Mike McCurry||Spokesman||Former White House press secretary|
|Steven Gluckstern||Chairman||Retired investment banker|
|Ann S. Bowers||Board member||Founding trustee of Noyce Foundation, widow of Intel founder|
|Albert Yates||Board member||Former President, Colorado State University|
|Marc and Susie T. Buell||Board members||Mrs. Buell is founder of Esprit de Corps|
|Anne Bartley||Board member||President, Rockefeller Family Fund|
|Alan Patricof||Donor||Co-founder, Apax Partners|
|Bren Simon||Donor||Wife of Simon Property Group co-chairman Mel Simon|
|Chris Gabrieli||Donor||Boston-based venture capitalist|
|Peter Lewis||Donor||Chairman, Progressive Corp.|
Since the publication of this list, Soros (top-right image) and Lewis (below-left) are said to have taken more prominent roles in the Democracy Alliance, reducing support for other groups thought to be ineffective.
According to reports, instead of donating directly to candidates, the aim of the Democracy Alliance is to support a longterm "progressive" media and foundational infrastructure. That keeps it largely outside the Federal Election Committee's reach. Definitions of designations used by advocacy groups are found here.
As a result, determining the group's sources of cash and expenditures is exceptionally difficult.
In determining how to proceed, the DA has closely studied conservative organizations such as the Heritage Foundation as well as the FOX News Channel.
After some initial fanfare, liberals have recently begun to express frustration with what they've seen as the slow pace of DA's funding plans. Even last April, Soros was cautioning liberal Democrat activists to be patient, according to The Hill:
George Soros told a carefully vetted gathering of 70 likeminded millionaires and billionaires last weekend that they must be patient if they want to realize long-term political and ideological yields from an expected massive investment in “startup” progressive think tanks.
A conservative analysis of early reporting on the DA is found at the American Thinker.
In January, the National Journal's Hotline published a piece critical of the DA's slow pace and seeming lack of focus, considering the huge amount of cash raised:
The DA's prime mover was Rob Stein, a lawyer and ex-DNC chief of staff who spent years trying to unravel the strands of the conservative movement. Stein entered his conclusions into a Power Point presentation which demonstrated so acutely the organizational deficiencies of Democrats that many of the party's top fundraisers and operatives were stunned into giving Stein's ideas a hard look.
Stein brought the presentation to meeting rooms across the country and quickly convinced dozens of big-name Democratic donors that the way to revive American liberalism would be to copy the institutional structure that conservatives built.
Hence the DA, which quickly secured $80 million or so in seed money to be spread over five years.
But many DA donors grew frustrated with the pace of the project and last year, Stein agreed to relinquish day-to-day control; Democrats familiar with the Alliance say Stein was a poor manager, better at evangelizing than motivating employeers. To replace him as CEO, the DA hired Wade.
At the last DA meeting, held in Atlanta in October, the group moved forward on its plans to raise $250K each from 1,000 individuals over five years and wrote checks to groups like the Center for American Progress and to David Brock's Media Matters. ($6M went to America Votes.)
But CAP and Media Matters (and Air America Radio) get money from other, non-DA sources too. And labor unions remain the financial engine of the Democratic Party. And the parties themselves are raising more hard money than they use to. And in 2008, prospective presidential candidates will blow through state spending limits and could raise nearly a $1 billion between them.
A fairly upbeat assessment of DA's prospects is found at the Washington Post:
Financial commitments totaling at least $80 million over the next five years generated by the Democracy Alliance in recent months -- at a time when some liberal groups, such as the George Soros-backed America Coming Together, are floundering -- suggest that the group is becoming a player in the long-term effort to reinvigorate the left.
The group has a goal of raising $200 million -- a sum that would inevitably come in part at the expense of more traditional Democratic groups, although alliance officials say donors have committed to maintaining past contribution levels.
Alliance chairman Steven Gluckstern, a retired investment banker, said that President Bush's victory over Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) last year after millions of dollars had been poured into pro-Democratic "527" groups caused many contributors to think that a dramatically new approach is needed.
For Air America, it has finally come to this: secure a bailout or begin to wind down operations. As a business entity, the liberal network just isn't cutting it.
Profit? That's a theoretical concept.
While other political organizations such as People For The American Way and new private operator GreenStone Media (founded by MoveOn.Org-supporting former radio executive Edie Hilliard) are also suddenly kicking in support by purchasing air or satellite time, DA may be the only one with deep-enough pockets to save it outright.
Given Air America's infamous ability to burn through cash, however, would $8 million allow the network to reach November? While that alone is only enough to fund operations for three to four months, combined with other revenue sources, it may be enough.
Given their past support for the "progressive" cause, is it a surprise Soros, Lewis, Reiner and others would cover Air America's expenses?
Contrary to popular sentiment, the answer is actually yes. For at least two years, Soros and Lewis haven't touched Air America with a ten-foot-pole.
While they both own units in AAR parent company Piquant LLC, that's based on very early investments. To believe they would ever again see that money, they've probably never been crazy enough.
In the wake of Air America's scandal regarding the transfer of $875,000 in taxpayer funds from the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club into its own coffers, there has until now been no indication of further Soros/Lewis support.
Removing any remaining doubt Air America (which has never been willing to comment on our investigations) is a non-commercially-viable charity case, the network will likely need additional infusions to continue operating over the long haul.
Meanwhile, the internal impact will be substantial: a whole new series of every-man-for-himself attempts to greedily secure fat pay hikes and perks. Intact will remain Air America's unbelievable inability to control expenses.
Al, it truly is your lucky day.
Welcome, National Review, GOPinion, BillO'Reilly.com, AceOfSpades and TheAnchoress readers! Bill O'Reilly discussed this story on Wednesday's show.
Welcome Michelle Malkin readers! Please see our main page for updates.
Democratic Underground "progressives" provide their take.
UPDATE: Air America has ignored repeated requests for comment on this story made today by an entertainment industry trade publication, the Radio Equalizer has learned.
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Garofalo image: Pete at IHillary for the Radio Equalizer