Stephen Bing

individual

Overview

  • Wealthy Hollywood producer and top Democratic Party donor
  • Committed suicide in June 2020

Born on March 31, 1965, Stephen Bing was the grandson of New York real-estate tycoon Leo Bing and the son of Dr. Peter Bing, a onetime public-health official in Lyndon Johnson‘s White House. At age eighteen, Stephen Bing inherited a family fortune worth an estimated $600 million. He subsequently went on to become a Hollywood producer and writer, best known for the films Kangaroo Jack (2003), Missing in Action (1984) and Get Carter (2000). Bing also personally invested almost $80 million into the production budget of Polar Express (2004).

In addition to his work in the movie industry, Bing was a real-estate developer, a political activist, and a prominent donor to the Democratic Party. During the 2000 election season, he contributed $759,000 to assist the campaigns of Democratic political candidates, plus $1 million to help bankroll the party’s National Convention in Los Angeles that summer. When the presidential election results in Florida were disputed a few months later—leaving the race between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush temporarily unresolved—Bing gave $200,000 to Gore’s Recount Committee, which was at the forefront of the infamous “hanging chad” controversy.

In 2001-02, Bing used his production company, Shangri-La Entertainment, to steer $6.7 million to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), and other pro-Democrat entities. In 2002 he was the leading contributor to New American Optimists (NAO), the political action committee of future Democratic vice-presidential nominee John Edwards. Through Shangri-La, Bing transferred $907,000 to NAO.[1]

In the 2004 election season, Bing donated nearly $7 million to Joint Victory Campaign 2004, $971,427 to the MoveOn.org Voter Fund, $252,217 to the pro-Democratic activist group Stronger America Now, and $12 million to America Coming Together.

After 2004, Bing donated many more millions of dollars to Democratic candidates and the activist groups that support them. Among the candidates whose campaigns Bing supported were Xavier Becerra, Cory Booker, Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, Pete Buttigieg, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Dick DurbinKeith EllisonRahm EmanuelDianne Feinstein, Al Franken, Al GoreTom Harkin, John KerryBarack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Linda Sanchez, Kyrsten Sinema, and Elizabeth Warren. Bing also gave money to such organizations as American Bridge 21st Century; American Family Voices ($600,000 in 2007); the Bill, Hillary, & Chelsea Clinton Foundation; the Center for American Progress; the League of Conservation Voters; the Moveon.org Voter Fund; and the Natural Resources Defense Council; the DNC; the DCCC; and the DSCC.[2]

In addition, Bing poured large sums of money into a number of ballot measures in his home state of California. In 1998, for instance, he reportedly spent $1.8 million to promote Proposition 10, which successfully levied taxes on the purchase of cigarettes and other tobacco products. And in 2006 he gave $49,581,810 to promote Proposition 87, which—in order to generate revenues for alternative energy programs—would have imposed a severance tax on oil production in California. Notably, Bing’s donations to Prop 87 accounted for more than 85 percent of the total $57 million that all donors together contributed to that cause. (Prop 87 was ultimately defeated by a 54.6% to 45.4% margin.)

In 2008 Bing supported Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful run for the presidency. That same year, he gave financial backing to David Brock‘s Progressive Media USA, which conducted a $40 million media blitz designed to publicly discredit Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who was running against Barack Obama.

When former president Bill Clinton in August 2009 traveled to North Korea to secure the release of two American journalists who were being detained on allegations that they had illegally entered that country, Bing allowed Clinton to use his (Bing’s) own Boeing 737 to make the trip. Moreover, Bing personally paid Avjiet, the charter company that operated the plane, the $200,000 fee associated with Clinton’s flight. Bing continued to make his plane available for Clinton to use if he wished.

In March 2010, the Daily Beast reported that Bing “counts some of the world’s wealthiest and most influential people as his closest friends, including former President Bill Clinton,” whom he was paying “$2.5 million a year to serve as an adviser to his green-construction business.”

In April 2012, Bing committed to join the Giving Pledge, established by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, to donate the majority of his wealth to charity over the course of his lifetime.

Apart from his fame as a film producer and political financier, Bing also cultivated a reputation as a notorious playboy and tabloid magnet. In 2001-02, he was involved in two separate paternity cases involving babies he had fathered with model Elizabeth Hurley and former tennis pro Lisa Bonder. With regard to the latter, Bing filed a $1 billion-plus lawsuit against Bonder’s ex-husband, 84-year-old MGM studio mogul Kirk Kerkorian, who, in an effort to determine the paternity of Bonder’s young daughter, had hired lawyers to wade through Bing’s garbage in search of dental floss that could be used in DNA testing to prove—as in fact it did—that Bing was the biological father.

On June 22, 2020, Bing committed suicide by jumping from a window of his luxury, 27th-floor apartment in Century City, California.

Footnotes

  1. In June 2002, Bing was required to pay a $25,000 fine for not promptly reporting a $500,000 state-level campaign donation in connection with his efforts to promote anti-tobacco measures in California two years earlier. Specifically, he had failed to comply with a state law mandating that campaign contributions of $1,000 or more be reported within 24 hours if made within 16 days of an election.
  2. This information is derived from CampaignMoney.com, OpenSecrets.org, and Fec.gov.

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