So what are the political ramifications, if any, of Jeff Bezos’s purchase of he Washington Post? Dave Weigel addresses the question directly in his Slate.com post, “Jeff Bezos, Inscrutable Libertarian Democrat“:
.. Bezos’s investments in political and ideological causes are eclipsed many times over by that of the Kochs, or the Scaifes, or the Soros, etc. But he’s earned a reputation as a libertarian with a targeted style of giving. He’s donated to the Reason Foundation, which publishes the first magazine that hired me, Reason. He gave $100,000 to the campaign to beat an income tax in his own Washington state — and he won.
Sure, his candidate giving record is more mixed. In 1998, he gave $2000 to Sen. Patrick Leahy’s smooth re-election bid. In 2000, he spread $1000 to Rep. John Conyers, $1000 to Sen. Spencer Abraham, and $1000 to Washington Sen. Slade Gorton — one Democrat, two Republicans. Right after Gorton was felled by Sen. Maria Cantwell, he gave $2000 to the Democrat. He gave $4200 more to Cantwell as she put together her 2006 re-election, and he’s given to both of Sen. Patty Murray’s campaigns since he made his fortune: $2000 in 2003, $4800 in 2010. That’s $15,000 over a decade, a fraction of what he gave in order to stop an income tax.
What explains the Democratic tilt? Bezos doesn’t give many interviews about his politics, but turn your eyes to the donation he gave to the successful 2012 campaign to legalize gay marriage in Washington. Bezos and his wife gave $2.5 million. Nothing we know about Bezos suggests that he differs much from the coastal/Acela policy consensus — which is to say he doesn’t differ much from the editorial board of the paper he owns now.
But he’s not used to owning a media corporation with a strong union culture, like the guild at the Post. That’s the first clash I’m interested in.
At The Nation, however, John Nichols thinks the Bezos buy is more of a yawner, at least compared to other recent developments concerning media and politics. As he writes in his post, “Big Media Story Isn’t Bezos and the Post, It’s the RNC Threatening CNN, NBC“:
Partnerships between the networks and the major political parties are a far greater concern than the ownership of newspapers by new generations of rich people. By cutting deals with the parties to host “exclusive” primary debates, and by accepting the parameters established by the two major parties for fall debates, the networks defer to the political establishment in the worst of ways.
It’s time for the networks, wealthy and powerful entities that they are, to declare independence from the major parties. If they want to partner with the League of Women Voters, which remains honorably committed to fairness and openness, that’s great. If they want to work with groups such as Common Cause, or state-based good government organizations and, yes, newspapers, that’s terrific.
But the network partnerships with the parties reinforce the worst status quo instincts–in our media and our politics. Americans should be interested in who owns newspapers, but they should be indignant about an arrangement that has television news operations negotiating with, partnering with and being threatened by political parties.
Me, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that you can buy one of the most influential newspapers on the planet for a paltry $250 mill — less than the cost of a single B-1B bomber.