Businessman Leo Hindery, former president of the YES network (the Yankees' and Devils' broadcast network), has been a proflic donor to the Democratic Party and various candidates, including $25,000 to both the DSCC and DCCC in 2004. He offered significant support to Tom Daschle, the SD Democratic Party, and a PAC suppporting Daschle's campaign.
He was even more generous in the 2000 cycle when soft dollar donations were not barred by law, and when he was CEO of once high-flying Silicon Valley firm Global Center, had stints with AT&T Broadband, and was a former chairman of the National Cable Television Association. His stint at Global Center, where he oversaw a merger with Exodus Communications, netted him about $247 million -- the sort of princely sum that allowed him to focus on political advocacy and philanthropy, but also saddled him with baggage from the company's subsequent corporate scandals (which also tainted Terry McAuliffe). His private philanthropy is focused on the fight against AIDS. He also races a Porsche 911 GT3 in the 24-hour Le Mans race.
But Hindery's most audacious move these past four years was helping fund the Osama ads that helped sink Howard Dean in Iowa. Hindery was a fierce Dick Gephardt supporter in the primaries and eagerly bought into the "Americans for Jobs & Healthcare" effort to take down Dean. So eager, in fact, that he contributed $100,000 of the organization's total $663,000 budget.
None of the early chatter on the 2004 DNC chairmanship race suggested Hindery has a base of potential support inside the DNC. While his prolific contributions may have earned him the gratitude of congressional Democrats, only a handful have a vote in the race. And even amongst that group, it seems that Martin Frost is gathering steam. Kerry has cast about elsewhere looking for "his" candidate (though both Vilsack and Shaheen have now dropped out of the running). The reform wing will consider both Dean and Rosenberg, perhaps Donnie Fowler. The Clintons' Harold Ickes would seem to be their man, if indeed he runs (he's not speaking at the Orlando cattle call).
Hindery has made no concrete public statements regarding his vision for the party. News reports indicate he is "making calls" to gauge potential support and offer little else. While other candidates have already started a dialogue on the future of the party, Hindery has kept below the radar. Hindery dropped out of the running for DNC chair at the Orlando event.
On December 10th Hindery removed himself form the DNC chair race with the following press release:
Contact: Jen Bluestein, (202) 528-6239
December 10, 2004
Statement of Leo Hindery, Jr.
"In April of 2004 I left my career in the media industry to devote myself full time to help elect John Kerry President and to advance the cause of Democratic Party ideals. It is my belief that the best use of my skills and talents is to help the Democratic Party become a majority party again by competing, in every state and in every county, city and town.
- "Recently, I explored the idea of running for Chair of the Democratic Party because I felt it might be one way that I could best serve the Party at this critical time. It's truly been one of the most exciting, challenging, and educational tasks I've ever undertaken. After an intense period of consultation with my closest friends and advisors and with my political heroes Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, I have decided not to seek the Chairmanship of the Party at this time.
- "What has emerged from this process is a field of candidates that is incredibly strong and inspirational in their capacities. They bring a diverse and extraordinary set of experiences to the Democratic Party. Conversations about the future of our party will be stronger because of them, and we are lucky to have them as candidates.
- "I am deeply committed to the Democratic Party, its ideals and its future, and I will work to ensure Democratic victories throughout the country at all levels, because I believe that our Party's values-hope, opportunity, fairness-are the values that benefit all Americans."