Calif. Donor Sets Record

By Josh Richman

Published November 03, 2006, issue of November 03, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Stephen Bing is already known as a multimillionaire real estate heir, movie mogul, prominent playboy and perennial paparazzi prey. Now you can add “record-setting political donor” to the list.

Bing, 41, of Los Angeles, has put a whopping $40 million into California’s Proposition 87, a measure on November’s ballot that would impose a tax on oil produced in California and use the estimated $4 billion this month raised to fund alternative energy research and development. The goal of the measure is to reduce the state’s consumption of both gas and diesel by a quarter over the next decade.

Bing, grandson of New York City real estate magnate Leo S. Bing and heir to an estimated $600 million, already was no slouch in ponying up for politics, having given about $16 million to the Kerry-Edwards ticket and to elated Democratic causes in 2003 and 2004. But his Proposition 87 stake beats businessman Al Checchi’s out-of-pocket spending to his failed 1998 Democratic gubernatorial primary bid to set a record for the most ever spent by an individual on a single California candidacy or cause.

California Common Cause policy advocate Ned Wigglesworth told the Sacramento Bee that Bing’s stake exceeds what entire industries sometimes spend on ballot measures. “It’s ridiculous that one person thinks they have a right to assert so much influence over public policy because they have the money to do so…. This is a power grab, albeit a well-intentioned power grab, by a rich guy.”

Bing has given plenty to environmental causes in the past, but why this one? Maybe it just made tremendous sense to him, or perhaps it’s because Anthony Rubenstein — who came up with the idea — and Bing were high-school buddies in Beverly Hills. The notoriously media-shy Bing won’t grant interviews to discuss it, or anything else.

That’s not surprising, considering media accounts of his current largess still recall his 2002 lawsuit against actress Elizabeth Hurley to determine whether he’d fathered her child (a DNA test later proved he had). He made other headlines that year as billionaire Kirk Kerkorian claimed that Bing was the biological father of a daughter raised by Kerkorian and his ex-wife, Lisa Bender; that case was settled secretly.

Rubenstein needs every cent of Bing’s contribution, for they’ve picked a costly fight: Oil companies led by San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron Corp. have pumped about $90 million of their own into the campaign against Proposition 87. They claim that it would raise gas prices, although Rubenstein’s camp notes the measure explicitly prohibits oil companies from passing the added cost to customers at the pumps; they also say it would drive oil companies out of California and so increase dependence on foreign oil, while creating a new bureaucracy of political appointees to oversee the tax.






Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.