Ronald Feldman: The Collector

Millionaire art collector associated with secretive Soros-backed group the Democracy Alliance
Ronald Feldman / thecontemporary.org

Ronald Feldman / thecontemporary.org

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Controversial art dealer Ronald Feldman—whose art gallery attained worldwide fame for having one of the largest Warhol collections at the time of the artist’s death—turned his wealth into a cash cow that Democratic candidates and causes have milked for nearly 20 years. His donations landed him at exclusive Democracy Alliance conferences where wealthy liberals doled out cash to a select group of Super PACs and interest groups.

The Alliance does not disclose members, but documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show that Feldman was part of the group.

Calls to Feldman at his gallery went unreturned, as did emails requesting comment from the Democracy Alliance.

Feldman burst onto the political scene in 1990 when “the ever-restless” collector raised more than $8 million for voter registration efforts and progressive candidates, according to the New York Times.

President Bill Clinton rewarded him for his efforts with an appointment to the National Endowment for the Arts Council in 1994. Feldman advised the NEA on grant writing to artists and helped control a $727 million budget between 1994 and 1999. The council was recovering from a series of scandals in the late 1980s for funding infamous works, such as “Piss Christ,” and NEA had its budget slashed from $170 million in 1994 to $98 million in 1999.

That did not stop the NEA from continuing to fund pornographic performance art pieces, however. In 1997, the NEA gave $400,000 to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York—the largest donation of the year—which helped pay for a video featuring “a bare-bottomed man dressed as ‘Rudolph’ who plays with naked female ‘elves.’ Among other activities, the elf-girls are shown defecating into buckets, mixing their excrement with chocolate, and feeding it to each other.”

Feldman has remained close to the Clintons. He and his wife, Frayda, gave maximum donations to Hillary’s 2008 presidential run, totaling nearly $14,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Their loyalty to Clinton did not stop them from hopping on the Obama bandwagon. Frayda contributed $2,300 to Obama in October 2008, while Ronald gave him $5,000 for the 2012 election.

The Alliance represents Feldman’s most expensive form of political giving. He and his wife have given more than $85,000 to Democratic candidates and committees since 2007, less than half the cost of a full-time membership with the group. Those membership dues are directed toward liberal mega-groups closely tied to the Obama administration, including multi-million dollar grants to Media Matters and the Center for American Progress.

Feldman has lent his support to the Obama administration outside of campaign donations. He visited the White House in 2010 and later took a public stance in support of Obama’s proposed tax hikes on the rich by signing the Patriotic Millionaires letter to Washington.

Feldman sits on the board of the liberal People for the American Way Foundation, which seeks to aid Democrats by mobilizing Democratic voting blocs. The board sports several Obama mega-donors, including noted verbally abusive parent Alec Baldwin, wealthy divorcee and Obama bundler Barbara Bluhm Kaul, and business woman Yolanda Parker, who has pledged to raise between $200,000 and $500,000 for the Obama campaign.

The Alliance brought Feldman closer to the administration after it began pumping money into Obama’s Priorities USA super PAC following the 2010 Republican wave.

Bill McMorris   Email Bill | Full Bio | RSS
Bill McMorris is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He joins the Beacon from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he was managing editor of Old Dominion Watchdog. He was a 2010 Robert Novak Fellow with the Phillips Foundation, where he studied state pension shortfalls. His work has been featured on CNN, Fox News, The Economist, Colbert Report, and numerous print publications and radio stations. He is a 2008 Cornell University graduate and lives in Alexandria, Va with his wife Teresa and daughter Olivia. His Twitter handle is @FBillMcMorris. His email address is mcmorris@freebeacon.com.