Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

Calif. Donor Sets Record

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.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.