While Democrats attack the rich across the country to gin up votes as part of their 2014 election strategy, one self-described “progressive” Democrat donor is so secretive with his wealth that Forbes magazine isn’t sure if he is even a billionaire.
Meet Fred Eychaner (pronounced Eye-can-er), a gay-rights activist and possible billionaire from Chicago who has given $4 million to Harry Reid’s Super PAC attacking shadowy billionaires. Eychaner gave so much money directly to federal candidates that he violated the legal maximum for 2012, according to Public Integrity. He donated $14.1 million in total to super PACs last cycle and has given a total of $5.8 million so far this cycle — more than any donor who supports Republicans.
Eychaner routinely ranks as one of the top three largest donors in America, after only fellow liberals Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer. But while Steyer and Bloomberg are if not household names then well-known in the political class, Eychaner has eluded scrutiny. National Journal tracked Eychaner down in May, but he has remained out of the spotlight for nine years.
Just how much money does Eychaner have? Even Forbes Magazine isn’t quite sure.
Pete Newcomb, senior editor for Forbes, was asked, “do you have some individuals that you suspect should be on the [Forbes billionaire] list but who won’t confirm it?”
Yes, we profiled someone in the current issue named Fred Eychaner, a media mogul from Chicago. My hunch is that he’s got a lot more than $500 million we attributed to him. He has a lot of investments in various media properties. He’s given away well over $100 million (over the past couple years). People who give away that kind of money tend to have a lot more.
Eychaner has been involved in progressive causes for much of the last twenty years. In addition to the Reid SuperPAC money, Eychaner also gave the leftist House Majority PAC $1 million in early May. He has visited the Obama White House at least seven times, and he gave at least $500,000 to a SuperPAC supporting Obama’s reelection. Obama keynoted a $35,800-per-couple dinner at Eychaner’s Lakeview home.
In 2000 Bill Clinton thanked Eychaner and his live-in partner Ken Lee “for opening their beautiful home”; Eychaner gave $25 million to the Clinton Foundation and $100,000 to Clinton buddy Terry McAuliffe in his bid for Virginia governorship.
The largest donor to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Eychaner, who founded Newsweb Corp. in the 1970s, got his start publishing alternative media, like the Chicago Reader newspaper that launched President Barack Obama’s political career with a 4,400 word feature in 1995.
The lion’s share of the fortune of the man who refuses to be called the “progressive Koch brother” comes from Rupert Murdoch, who bought Newsweb’s WPWR-TV station in 2003. Eychaner was listed as the “reclusive” owner of Air America’s Chicago outlet and routinely comes up among the top 20 Democratic donors. He is listed on the boards of the Joffrey Ballet and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Eychaner has also been strategic about who he has hired for his Alphawood Foundation. In 2012, he hired Sun-Times Media general counsel James McDonough in a move to avoid media scrutiny. When the Chicago media writes about him at all, it’s usually praise for some gift he has given or for his support of same-sex marriage in Illinois.
Eychaner gave an $11 million gift to honor Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Manhattan — and then sued to make sure a plaque with his own name would be on the monument. He reportedly gave money to ACORN, according to former employee Anita MonCrief.
In 2005, the Chicago Tribune reported that “Eychaner ranks fifth nationally as a lifetime donor to the Democratic National Committee and related committees between 1978 and January 2004.” But the Tribune noted that Eychaner “refused repeated requests to allow a reporter inside his home or office.
Eychaner also refuses to be photographed.
Who is the left’s shadowy mega-donor, and what does he want?
Maybe if the media weren’t so obsessed with the Kochs, we would know the answer.