Miami's Christopher Findlater, the Democrats' Mini-Koch
Around the State
Findlater is the kind of guy Democrats seldom own up to. Think of the Kochs. Chris Findlater doesn't have the billion-dollar bankroll, but he has enough millions to cause a ruckus for Republicans and the same appetite for manipulation and hardball on the left as the brothers do on the right. Their MOs are pretty much the same.
Findlater has provided Democratic candidates, committees, and groups with more than $1 million since 2008, including $40,800 to the Obama Victory Fund in 2011 and 2012.
Findlater is a hypocrite, loudly decrying campaign big-spending, while spending big, bigger and biggest himself. He gives an average $312,000 per year to left-wing candidates and a shadowy advocacy group called the Democracy Alliance.
Findlater made much of his money when he co-founded the online auto insurance business NetQuote, which connects insurance agents with prospective buyers. The company was controversial -- industry insiders decried its spamming tactics -- but as Internet startups go, it was a home run and sold for more than $50 million in 2005.
It says a lot about Findlater's love of covert ops that there isn't a decent photo of him on the Internet. At least, none that I could find.
In his LinkedIn profile, he describes himself as "an Internet entrepreneur whose interests include online journalism, election reform and recycling." He founded or co-founded a number of successful ventures, including WyoFile, Cheyenne Exploration, and providing starting capital to ventures in oil re-refining and creating fish-food from excess beer water.
He then talks about his success in Denver with NetQuote, which "enabled me to return to Florida and pursue my passions (as an activist investor) for the benefit of Florida."
Since then, more than anything else, Findlater dabbles in campaign gifting. To put it bluntly, he likes cooking election books -- rearranging districts and/or circumstances to deliver a Democratic advantage. That's what he's up to this year in Orange County. He is the largest individual donor to the Democrat-led effort in that Central Florida county to make all races partisan, throwing in $25,000 to the Citizens PAC. He's also the force most responsible for attracting deep-pocketed outside donors and national groups to the cause.
True, the Republicans are sponsoring a counter-referendum on the same ballot. According to a story in the Orlando Sentinel, both parties are accusing the other of opportunism. But Democrats probably have the most to gain. They now hold a registration lead over Republicans in Orange County of 300,255 to 204,142.
It's a good move for a progressive strategist and Findlater certainly is a shrewd one. Orange County GOP Chairman Lew Oliver told the Sentinel he fears "Orange's increasing Democratic tilt could lead to the single-party rule found in places such as Detroit, Chicago or California."
In 2010 Findlater pumped nearly $900,000 into Fair Districts Florida (FDF), the liberal group that spent more than $9 million to curb Republican redistricting efforts.
Also in 2010 he founded the Florida Watch Ballot Committee, using it to funnel $500,000 from liberal billionaire George Soros to FDF. As it happens, in spite of the mountain of cash changing hands, the committee never filed any campaign reports, and disbanded shortly after voters approved redistricting amendments 5 and 6.
During an interview reported in the Washington Free Beacon in August 2012, Florida Division of Elections spokesman Chris Cate said, “They failed to file their final report due in July 2011” and were able to avoid prosecution because “they were not referred to the Elections Commission.”
Findlater is widely regarded as a major force behind the rise of Allison Tant in the Democratic Party. But that's another story for another day.
This former CEO doesn't restrict himself to Florida. He is a major operative for superbundlers ActBlue. This is a group that allows donors to hide the identity of their recipients by filing contributions under the ActBlue banner.
Launched in 2004, ActBlue bills itself as "the online clearinghouse for Democratic action." As a federally registered political action committee, it serves as a conduit for online contributions to Democratic candidates and committees. That is, ActBlue bundles and transmits earmarked contributions from individuals raised on their website to specific candidates. Have a look at the OpenSecrets.org list of Findlater's political contributions.
As I said earlier, Findlater is also deeply involved in the Democracy Alliance, which tries to keep secret the names of its dozens of members, all of whom are required to contribute at least $200,000 a year.
In case you don't know what the by-invitation-only Democracy Alliance is, the Washington Free Beacon calls it "the brain trust of the progressive movement.” But it's much more than that, they say. A Democracy Alliance endorsement can mean a multimillion-dollar windfall, a prospect that has driven everyone from liberal startups to Barack Obama to knock on its door, hat in hand.
The Alliance, founded by Soros, operates in the shadows and steers hundreds of millions of dollars to liberal behemoths. Democratic super-PACs, including President Barack Obama’s Priorities USA, the Center for American Progress (CAP), and the voter group ACORN have all benefited from its largesse.
The Alliance partners with liberal communication hubs like Media Matters and the Center for American Progress. Those groups embody Findlater’s efforts to use media to support Democrats. He financed online journalism websites in Wyoming and in Florida -- specifically, the Tallahassee-based Florida Independent, which went out of business April 29. The idea was to provide critical coverage of the GOP ahead of the Obama re-election campaign.
Muckety, a group that uses connections to measure influence, gives South Beach's Findlater an 80. Explains its website, "If someone has a score of 99, it means he or she has more connections and influence than 99 percent of the others in our listings of the most influential people in America." It's a fascinating site. Have a look at this man's connections. They will blow your mind.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423.