Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

What eBay-Rich Meg Whitman Really Wants to Do Is Direct!

It’s worth checking out an article in the New York Times today that points to a very questionable, but–as it turned out–politically savvy angel investment made by former eBay CEO and now Republican candidate for California governor Meg Whitman.

The piece, by Michael Luo, alleges that Whitman’s $1 million investment in late 2008 in a Hollywood entertainment company called Tools Down! Productions was made to ease a prominent Republican strategist away from working for her rival for the GOP nod.

That would be Steve Poizner, who lost to Whitman in the recent primary and who was close to working with Mike Murphy. Instead, with a little help from the piles of cash Whitman made from eBay (EBAY) stock, Murphy never took the job.

Well, not the Poizner job, at least. After telling people he was sick of politics and then getting the Whitman money days later for his still credit-free movie production company, Murphy became an adviser to Whitman a year later.

The bigger story the Times is touting, but does not quite deliver, is the advent of super-rich candidates in races this round, including another tech exec, former Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) CEO Carly Fiorina. She won the California GOP Senate primary.

This kind of thing has happened before, of course.

But what’s interesting is to see Silicon Valley’s digitally enabled moneybags step up to the very stained political table and jump right into the game.

What’s next? Google (GOOG) co-founder Sergey Brin buying everyone in San Francisco lattes for life to become mayor? Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s bid for president of the United States, via the leveraging of embarrassing photos from the social networking site?

And thank goodness Bill Gates of Microsoft (MSFT) never wanted to run for office.

The Whitman campaign told the Times that the investment was disclosed and justified in that she had ample entertainment interest from her days as a strategic planning exec at Disney (DIS) and also as a board member of DreamWorks Animation SKG (DWA).

Which is exactly what they would say, of course.

Thus, perhaps it is time to take a moment with Jimmy Stewart in a video clip from the classic film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” of his most potent “Lost Causes” scene:

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work