Covering the Dems Big Donor “Huddle”

Only Politico showed up?

Last week, reports started appearing that a big group of deep-pocketed Democratic donors would be gathering this week in Washington, DC — at the Mandarin Oriental— to strategize, in part, about how to respond to their recent electoral “shellacking.” Per Politico:

“[M]ajor liberal donors will meet in Washington next week to talk fundraising strategies in the wake of the Republican landslide last week propelled in part by the GOP’s huge spending advantage in political advertising.

The meeting comes as major Democratic donors have increasingly divided into two camps: those pushing to match Republican outside advertising efforts in 2012 and those who contend their side lacks the resources to level the playing field and would be better served funding more permanent intellectual infrastructure rather than political advertising.

About 150 donors and many of Democratic operatives are scheduled to meet at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for a long-scheduled meeting….

And, from the AP last week:

Stung by the Republican takeover of the House and gains in the Senate, Democrats already are considering how to rebuild a structure of outside groups that Obama himself discouraged in 2008 and which he decried when used by Republicans in 2010.

Next week, about 150 high-dollar liberal donors will assemble in Washington for a meeting of the Democracy Alliance, a five-year old group set up to advance liberal causes.

Struck me as the sort of gathering that would draw some reporters: wealthy Democratic donors and “operatives” strategizing, possibly about whether or not to set up their own (possibly anonymously-funded) outside spending groups for 2012. A reporter could get, at the very least, some swell anonymous quotes. Possibly some free food? Heck, you know the date and location.

Here, yesterday, was the New York Times’s The Caucus blog:

Starting with a reception and dinner on Monday evening and running through lunch on Wednesday, more than 100 of the left’s biggest donors will huddle at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington to hash over, among other issues, what happened in the 2010 midterm elections and how to respond.

The meeting is a conference for “partners,” or donors, to Democracy Alliance, an organization that was set up in 2005 to help build an infrastructure of liberal-leaning organizations that would serve as a counterweight to similar groups on the conservative side. Well-known Democracy Alliance donors include the likes of George Soros and Peter B. Lewis, billionaires who have given millions to liberal causes.

Surely, I thought, this reporter is en route to the Mandarin Oriental to nose around this “huddle,” maybe identify some more of these rich Democratic “partner”/donors, possibly get a sense of what’s being discussed. Or, maybe not. I haven’t seen anything further from the Times on this.

Politico, for one, “crashed” the event and offered this report today:

Some of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors met Tuesday afternoon with influential party figures such as AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, organizer Joan Fitz-Gerald and former White House aide Van Jones to discuss the lessons and implications of the GOP’s landslide midterm election victory.

The meeting - organized by a group of wealthy, politically active liberals called the Democracy Alliance - took place at Washington’s swank Mandarin Oriental hotel, where off-duty police officers and other security patrolled the halls looking for reporters and other uninvited guests, who were escorted from the premises.

“The agreement is that everything that goes on here is confidential,” one adviser to major liberal donors said while waiting for a taxi outside the hotel. “I didn’t come up with the policy, but I think it serves the purposes of allowing people to speak freely and let their hair down,” said the adviser, who did not want to be identified violating the agreement.

Among the donors spotted at the conference on Tuesday, the second day of the three-day gathering, were former Stride Rite chairman Arnold Hiatt, hedge fund financier Donald Sussman, electronics pioneer Bill Budinger, real estate developer Wayne Jordan and Suzanne Hess, the wife of real estate mogul Lawrence Hess.

There was no sign of some of the deepest-pocketed Democracy Alliance members, such as tech entrepreneur Tim Gill, insurance magnate Peter Lewis, or billionaire financier George Soros, though Michael Vachon, a Soros representative, did attend.

Times? Washington Post? AP? Anyone else? (Well, you still have, according to the Times’s own report, “through lunch” today to get over there and take a look).

I’m not suggesting there’s anything nefarious going on at this gathering. I’m not even suggesting there’s a major story to be had there, or even, necessarily, crucial information that isn’t or won’t eventually be made public. It just seems like when 100-plus wealthy potential political donors and some of the folks who hope to put their money to work gather to strategize (particularly just after an election in which wealthy donors and the outside groups who love them played a sizeable role, often anonymously) you’d want a reporter on that.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.