The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

22 February 2006

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:

Name Function Background
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
Rob Reiner Donor Director/actor
George Soros Donor Financier
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', 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.

Thanks for your continued Radio Equalizer support, via Amazon orders that begin with clicks here, regardless of what you ultimately order! In the spotlight: Robert Ferrigno's exciting new thriller Prayers for the Assassin: A Novel. Read the transcript of Hugh Hewitt's interview with Ferrigno here.

Garofalo image: Pete at IHillary for the Radio Equalizer


  • Great News! Every penny spent broadcasting Air America is money spent shouting into the wind.

    Money spent there is money that won't be spent usefully somewhere else by Democratic candidates..

    The essential problem with Air America is that it doesn't even attempt to change any won't attract any new Democratic voters.

    It simply speaks to the most rabid base - those who don't need any convincing anyhow.

    Where's the ROI for the Democrats on that?

    By Blogger Lokki, at 22 February, 2006 12:39  

  • Waitaminute - you mean millionaires and billionaires sink their money into causes of political ideology? I'm simply floored...

    Seriously, though - the whole money-trail aspect of this story is virtually the only decent reporting I've seen Brian do. Unfortunately for him, he tries to raise it to the level of "scandal", which it reaches not-at-all.

    Really, Brian - you had a great shot here at simply REPORTING THE FACTS. In fact, all of the facts you present her are an excellent case study. You really could go somewhere with this, if you would only drop the whole "liberal" angle. It really is a story, and it really does have meat - just not the kind you want.

    Very, very good job, mostly. Lose the snarkiness - actually attack ACTUAL SCANDALS, and you're on your way.

    By Blogger TJ, at 22 February, 2006 14:41  

  • This simply has to be done:

    For three days, now, Brian has not corrected his "Rush Errs: Media in Heavan" story.

    He either lied, or furthered the lies of others in not revealing that Rush -

    1) Tried to make up a race issue where none existed and then;
    2) Lied in his "apology" - he didn't apologize for making up the race issue angle of the story he was relating.

    Brian could very, very easily check the facts on this (the majority of the facts are reported, if dishonestly, in his own post) and correct his story.

    So - make this "Liar-Brian watch - Day 3"...

    By Blogger TJ, at 22 February, 2006 16:00  

  • hey elnish you moron, you forgot to mention that rush's shows were cancelled 4 times during his first few years. he might have more listeners now, but in the beginning he struggled more than AAR. at least they have stayed on the air!!!!!

    By Blogger hardcore conservative genious, at 22 February, 2006 16:01  

  • " forgot to mention that rush's shows were cancelled 4 times during his first few years. he might have more listeners now, but in the beginning he struggled more than AAR. at least they have stayed on the air!!!!! "

    In considering this comment, it's worth noting that Mr. Limbaugh didn't stay on the air until he started giving the listeners what they wanted (no audience, no funding) - where as Air America doesn't have to pass any test of viability with an audience. Thanks to the generosity of its big donors, it never has to get any better than it is now.

    By Blogger Lokki, at 22 February, 2006 16:11  

  • at least they have stayed on the air!!!!!

    I'm sure the radio stations that once employed Rush Limbaugh are still on the air, too. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them changed formats more than once since then.

    Meanwhile, here I sit just 15 miles from DC and I couldn't hear Air America radio if I wanted to. It might be there, but it just won't come in.

    Am I missing anything good?

    By Blogger eLarson, at 22 February, 2006 16:28  

  • eLarson, don't know if I've seen you post before, and I don't know if you're serious in your "missing anything good" question, but I find Al Franken a hard show to miss, and Randi Rhodes can be quite entertaining, though she tends toward the anger-extreme...but, hey, extremism is entertaining...

    Of course, if you really wanna, you could listen to AAR online all you want...don't need to pick it up over the airwaves.

    Meanwhile, the local affiliate where I live carries The Stephanie Miller Show from 6-9am PST - she's a stand-up comedienne, and she is, put simply, brilliant.

    By Blogger TJ, at 22 February, 2006 16:52  

  • all this talk about how long RL has been on the air is cute, and all, but what about the FACT that he tried to make up a racial issue in the Paul Hackett story, then lied in his "correction" & "apology", and then Brian LIED about the media coverage of it?

    By Blogger TJ, at 22 February, 2006 19:05  

  • phil,

    I question your efforts not one whit -merely their [lack of] credibility...which they, oddly enough, seem incredibly proud to display....

    By Blogger TJ, at 22 February, 2006 22:52  

  • Will another billion dollars be enough to pull the Moonie-funded Washington Times through another year?

    The crazed zealot Sun Myun Moon always has lots of money to fund all these wacko right-winger publications.

    You've got your Moonies. Have fun.

    By Blogger @whut, at 22 February, 2006 23:56  

  • So in trying to compete with NPR Air America in essence has *become* NPR. Except NPR is worth listening to... >_>

    I hereby count myself amused! ^_~

    By Blogger Towering Barbarian, at 25 February, 2006 02:17  

  • Um, Air America is not making money because they aren't getting the ad revenue. They aren't getting the ad revenue because they aren't getting the audience. Funny how that works.

    Is it somehow necessary for membership in the "progressive" movement to suspend normal thought and insist that Air America is financially successful when it so obviously isn't? Do you lose your decoder ring or something? Why exert so much effort on something that is not reaching your target audience and work on something else that does?

    You can't convert people who aren't listening.

    By Blogger inmypajamas, at 26 February, 2006 22:01  

  • Mr. Mahoney - I hope you check out the Boston name on that list - Chris Gabrielei.

    Since he is planning to run in the Democrat primary for Governor here in Mass., is he running afoul of Mass. campaign finance laws by purchasing himself a radio station? Is he willing to pledge to keep his name off the air?

    I hope his campaign office will answer you.

    By Blogger Peter Porcupine, at 27 February, 2006 00:15  

  • 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.

    A "dramatically new approach"? Yeah, like how 'bout we get rid of that whole democracy thing? Then maybe we can impose our views on the people.

    Note that when Democrats lose their interpretation of events is that they failed to adequately brainwash the American people. Never do they think that maybe it's because their ideas are wrong.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 15 April, 2008 14:31  

  • It's been five years since this thread was active, but damn, it's funny now. All this talk about Air America, and Limbaugh, and who's on or off the air.

    Who's on NOW, liberal know-it-alls?

    Your good buddy and wingnut who just happens to be right yet AGAIN... Elnish

    By Anonymous Elnish Arundel, at 27 April, 2011 14:19  

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