The White House 'War on Billionaires'

A couple of days ago, we blogged about the "Progress Report" released by the Center for American Progress on the influence of conservative and libertarian billionaires on politics and policy. We pointed out at the time that it seemed a curious tack for CAP to take, especially since the think tank itself was funded by billionaire George Soros and billionaires Herbert and Marion Sandler.

But we learn from Brian Doherty of Reason Magazine that this effort at attacking billionaire opponents of Obama probably originated in the White House, and that the history of CAP includes an interesting connection with Nancy Pelosi:

Aside from its remarkable language -- is it "hate" to believe the stimulus, cap-and-trade and the current health care proposals are bad policy? -- the Podesta group's attack on the Kochs is striking because the Center for American Progress is itself the product of politically-active billionaires. It would never have come into existence without the backing of California-based Herbert and Marion Sandler, who founded Golden West Financial Corporation and made billions engaging in some of the most irresponsible subprime lending of the first years of this decade. (After the financial collapse, their reputation sank so low that they were brutally parodied in a "Saturday Night Live" sketch last year.)

In 2003, Herbert Sandler approached Podesta, then a law professor at Georgetown, with a proposal to found what would become the new think tank. It turned out Podesta had already been thinking about a similar idea, and the two men talked at length, and talked further when Podesta flew to San Francisco for more detailed discussions. The Sandlers, who are also close to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, ended up talking Podesta into taking the job.

There is another billionaire, George Soros, who is also close to the Center. In 2003, in the middle of spending nearly $30 million of his own money in a quest to unseat President George W. Bush, Soros pledged to give the Center $1 million a year for three years. It was less than the Sandlers gave, but it was key support for an institution then getting off the ground.

Ed Lasky has pointed out that CAP has become not only an employment agency for the White House with several high ranking administration members pulled from its ranks of board members and fellows, but that policy itself is being formulated by this powerful group of liberals. It's influence goes far beyond any conservative think tanks pull with recent Republican administrations and it has become a virtual one stop shop for Democratic candidates looking for policy proposals to flesh out their campaigns.

The conservatives have no real counter to CAP, which makes the work of conservative-libertarians like the Koch brothers vital to the cause. This is something the White House recognizes which no doubt led directly to the scurrilous attack. Criticizing dissent is not the goal; it is intimidation of large conservative donors that they're after. Given their power and White House connections, CAP can be counted on to continue to carry water for Obama while trashing his opponents.

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky