ProPublica Donor Gets Pass—from ProPublica

Liberal millionaire and major Obama bundler Jeffrey Katzenberg receives little scrutiny from nonprofit journalism group

Jeffrey Katzenberg / AP
September 19, 2012

A spokesman for ProPublica responded Tuesday to charges that the nonprofit journalism outfit devotes most of its investigations to donors of Republican and conservative causes while largely ignoring similarly influential donors on the left end of the political spectrum—including one donor to ProPublica itself.

A Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s Sands business has generated extensive media coverage, including a series of investigative news articles by ProPublica.

Adelson has given about $36 million to Republican Super PACs this election cycle, and has been accused of bankrolling Romney’s efforts in order to secure tax breaks and profit from appreciation of Chinese currency.

Meanwhile, liberal mega-donors, such as DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, have managed largely to avoid scrutiny despite similarly controversial dealings.

Katzenberg, whose DreamWorks Animation is also the subject of a SEC investigation, has received only passing attention from the media.

For example, ProPublica has only mentioned Katzenberg once, in a list of top political contributors this election cycle. In 2011, Katzenberg and his wife donated $25,000 to ProPublica.

ProPublica spokesman Mike Webb defended his organization's editorial decisions in an email to the Free Beacon Tuesday.

"There are many differences here: Mr. Adelson is reportedly planning to give as much as 50 times the amount that Mr. Katzenberg will give, and thus far more material to the campaign," Webb wrote. "Second, the investigation of Mr. Adelson's company is specific to them, while that of DreamWorks is reportedly of the industry, and particularly including both Disney and News Corp., DreamWorks' principal competitors.  Finally, that said, we would have loved to have broken the story of the SEC probe of the film industry, but Reuters got there first, and we have not had an opportunity to add to their reporting (nor, apparently, have they or others)."

Katzenberg is Obama’s biggest individual donor and a bundler for the Obama campaign. The New York Times reported last week that he has raised at least $6.6 million for the president.

President Obama’s big-money wranglers have been more than happy to perpetuate the theory that liberal donors give money to politicians without expecting any favors in return.

"On the Democratic side you’re giving—you know your taxes are going to go up if President Obama gets his way if you’re in the wealthiest 1 percent," Priorities USA co-founder Bill Burton recently said. "For a lot of Democrats, like in the entertainment industry, for example, they give because they care about equality environment things like that. They’re not selling more movie tickets because President Obama gets re-elected."

Katzenberg, however, will see more ticket sales thanks to help from the Obama administration. As the Free Beacon noted in May:

Katzenberg’s movie studio, DreamWorks, recently finalized a deal to build a studio in Shanghai, China. The nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation notes that Katzenberg’s deal was made possible with help from the Obama administration, which arranged a meeting for Katzenberg with Chinese Vice President and heir apparent Xi Jinping after his White House visit in February. Xi traveled from the White House to Los Angeles to sign the deal with the major Obama donor.

The Sunlight Foundation asks if "Katzenberg’s support for Obama fast-track[ed his] movie deal with China?" But DreamWorks would not respond to on-the-record questions from the good government watchdog group.

Moreover, the Securities and Exchange Commission is currently investigating DreamWorks for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in relation to its dealings with the Chinese government. The investigation focuses on possible bribes Katzenberg and his associates may have paid to Chinese officials in order to get the deal approved.

When a Free Beacon reporter contacted Katzenberg’s spokeswoman in February, she repeatedly denied that the Obama administration was involved in the deal. The spokeswoman did not return calls for this article.