- Wealthy Hollywood producer and top Democratic Party donor
Stephen Bing is 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 is 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 the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, 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 $905,000 to NAO.1
In the 2004 election season, Bing donated nearly $7 million to Joint Victory Campaign 2004, more than $970,000 to the MoveOn.org Voter Fund, and $252,217 to the pro-Democratic activist group Stronger America Now. All told, he gave some $15 million to tax-exempt activist organizations that were unofficially allied with the Democratic Party. This made Bing the third-leading contributor to Democratic causes, trailing only his close friend George Soros and Progressive Corp chairman Peter Lewis, who gave $19 million apiece.
Since 2004, Bing has donated many more millions of dollars to Democratic candidates and the activist groups that support them. Among the candidates whose campaigns Bing has supported are Cory Booker, Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Dick Durbin, Rahm Emanuel, Keith Ellison, Dianne Feinstein, Al Franken, Tom Harkin, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Elizabeth Warren. Bing has also given 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 Moveon.org Voter Fund; and the Natural Resources Defense Council.2
In addition, Bing has 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. Prop 87 was defeated, however, 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 Avjet, the charter company that operated the plane, the $200,000 fee associated with Clinton’s flight. To this day, Bing continues to make his plane available for Clinton to use if he wishes.
Apart from his fame as a film producer and political financier, Bing has 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.
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.