Who Is Lee Halprin?
Lee Halprin began his career as a writer, but over time he has become a prominent benefactor of mainstream Democratic politicians. From 1992 to the present day, Halprin has contributed over $840,000 to left-wing candidates and campaigns.
He is also a major funder of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the largest socialist political organization in the United States. In a 2016 magazine piece, the DSA recognized Halprin’s role in supporting their “Anti-capitalist Capital Campaign.”
The DSA has endorsed more than 60 elected officials at the local through federal levels. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) are members of the group. Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) were each endorsed by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), to which Halprin has given $18,000. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), the fourth member of the “Squad,” has received money from Halprin since 2009. Halprin has also given to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) over the years.
All these politicians and groups support the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and government funding of college tuition—the policy trifecta of the new democratic socialist movement.
Halprin also donates to many Democrats on the more moderate side as well. In the 2018 midterm cycle, he made the maximum campaign contribution of $5,400 to Adam Schiff (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). In 2016, Halprin gave $70,000 to Democratic candidates including Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Catharine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).
In this way, Halprin exemplifies how the radical, fringe, socialist circles of the professional Left are merging with mainstream Democratic politics. The same source funds the DSA, the Squad, and Bernie Sanders and gives money to the Democratic Party’s senior members of Congress and its official institutions such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Where does Halprin get the money to do all this?
It would seem that his wealth comes from his wife, Abby Rockefeller of the Rockefeller dynasty, the daughter of David Rockefeller and Margaret McGrath. Abby occupies a vague category between radical leftist politics and establishment liberal philanthropy, having been a part of the radical feminist group Cell 16, which promoted celibacy and total separation from the male sex. She then went on to a career in nonprofit environmentalism. Their personal sympathies likely lie more on the socialist side of things, as they are both listed as publishers of the socialist magazine In These Times.
Halprin and Rockefeller are prime examples of how left-wing philanthropists are able to fund both moderates and radicals—from the DSA to Adam Schiff—to achieve the same ends without any chastisement, while right-of-center philanthropists are under constant scrutiny for the recipients of their donations. If the Democratic Party shifts leftward after the 2020 election, we can imagine many other donors like Halprin having clean consciences with such an outcome, leading one to conclude that the Democratic Party’s supposed moderate-radical division is in reality only a performance.