Dick Gunther believes in Barack Obama—and aliens.
The multimillionaire has dedicated his vast post-World War II California real estate empire to searching for aliens and financing leftwing causes, such as the secretive Democracy Alliance.
Gunther, who became a minor celebrity when he appeared on Nixon’s Enemies List, has contributed more than $200,000 to Democratic committees and candidates in the past three election cycles, including $12,300 to the Obama campaign and $16,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Gunther has also targeted his giving through his $200,000 per year commitment to the Democracy Alliance, which supports Democratic super PACs and groups with close ties to the White House, such as the Center for American Progress and Media Matters.
While the Alliance does not disclose its members or recipients, Gunther went semi-public with his membership in the closing pages of his little-read 2009 memoir, How High is Up?: The Tale of a Restless Spirit.
"The Democracy Alliance group I’m involved in is composed of a coterie of people who have committed major resources and energy to attempt to build a permanent, progressive political presence in the United States," he said. "I actively support candidates I believe in and am very involved in several organizations that work for social justice on many fronts."
Gunther has contributed $13,250 to J-Street PAC, the political arm of the anti-Israel lobby. He has also poured money into 527 groups that are not limited by campaign contribution limits, including $55,000 to the Progressive Majority.
Gunther did not return requests for comment.
"Campaign finance laws have not curbed giving; it’s like water running downhill, you can’t stop it, but you can try to redirect it," said conservative elections expert Jay Cost. "Campaign finance laws have redirected money from the parties and put it in the hands of 527 groups through organizations like the Democracy Alliance."
The Alliance does not collect money from members directly, but helps elevate a select group of campaigns and organizations to concentrate the donations of its wealthy members. The favored status groups have changed over the years, as the group has focused on aiding the Obama reelection campaign through the president’s Super PAC, Priorities USA, rather than on small, issue-based liberal organizations.
"It’s becoming too closely related to the 2012 election," campaign finance expert John Samples said of the Democracy Alliance’s recent refocusing of its efforts. "The emphasis seems to go to Media Matters and CAP, groups that are more directly related to the election. They are firmly committed to the short game of keeping Obama in power."
The decision to endorse Obama’s Super PAC led founding member Peter Lewis, an insurance billionaire, and a number of other donors to leave the group.
The Democracy Alliance did not return e-mails for comment.
Gunther says in his memoir that his humanist positions influence his politics. And while he mocks religious devotees in the book, he is also a public advocate for the hunt for life elsewhere in the universe. He is committed to "helping develop cosmological and extraterrestrial science exhibits," according to his book jacket.