July 30, 2004

ABC NEWS is running a rather troubling story about mob connections for Kerry fundraiser Stephen Bing:

He is Stephen Bing, a wealthy film producer who, with little fanfare, has managed to steer a total of more than $16 million of his money to Democratic candidates and the supposedly independent groups that support them.

“To most of the people who track money and politics, they’re like, who the hell is Steve Bing?” said Chuck Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog organization.

Bing is perhaps best known for sparking a tabloid frenzy when he publicly expressed doubt that he was the father of actress Elizabeth Hurley’s baby. (A paternity test proved he was indeed the father.) He repeatedly has refused to say why he is funneling millions of dollars to the Democrats.

Lewis thinks it is cause for concern.

“We can identify who the big donors are, but how much do we really know about any of them?” he said.

In fact, Democratic Party officials said they knew nothing about the man who law enforcement officials tell ABC News is Bing’s friend and business partner — Dominic Montemarano, a New York Mafia figure currently in federal prison on racketeering charges.

This seems as if it has the potential for embarrassment. And wasn’t campaign finance “reform” supposed to put an end to this sort of thing? I guess it didn’t work:

“This is money to curry favor, to gain influence,” said Wertheimer. “The very thing that the Watergate laws were designed to stop.”

It’s as if the whole enterprise was a sham.

UPDATE: Much more on Bing and the entertainment-industrial complex’s relationship to politics can be found in this article by Eric Alterman:

The Center for Responsive Politics calculates Bing’s (pre-McCain-Feingold) 2002-cycle donations to the Democrats at $8.7 million. Recently George Soros came to Hollywood to raise money in a series of private billionaire-to-billionaire meetings for America Coming Together and The Media Fund, the coordinated anti-Bush organizations created to fit within the strictures of campaign-finance laws, to which he has promised $10 million. A kind of shadow Democratic Party, ACT and The Media Fund (under the joint fundraising umbrella of Victory Campaign 2004) are 527 organizations: they independently raise and spend money to identify voters and buy air time for advertising. These and other 527 organizations, on the left and the right, have come in for a lot of heat, because contributions are unlimited so long as the organization does not communicate with any candidate or official party committee—and everyone suspects that the concept “does not communicate” has been vitiated by Talmudic parsing. I’m told that after seeing Soros, Bing upped his contribution from $2 million to nearly $7 million, just like that. No wonder the constant refrain from the politically connected in Hollywood is “What we need more than anything is more Steve Bings.”

Maybe, maybe not.