Everybody knows Democrat Joe Biden is running for re-election as president. Dig further and you’ll find a few people are aware that Democrat Marianne Williamson is also running.
Known as Oprah Winfrey’s “spiritual adviser,” Williamson is a self-help author and speaker who has unsuccessfully run for Congress from California and who is making her second try for the White House.
Then there’s Dean Phillips.
There’s not a lot of name recognition for Phillips, a Minnesota congressman and businessman who also is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.
Another businessman, billionaire venture capitalist Bill Ackerman, wants to change that.
Ackerman so wants Phillips to be known and to win the nomination and the presidency that he announced Saturday that he’s donating $1 million to a political action committee that supports the three-term congressman.
“This is by far the largest investment I have ever made in someone running for office,” Ackerman said in a lengthy post on X.
He framed his support for Phillips in a parable about a floundering corporation needing help.
“Recently I found a great leader who is looking to run a huge business that has lost its way, where enormous value can be created, and where huge societal benefit is the resulting outcome, if the business can be turned around,” Ackerman said.
He paralleled his assessment of Phillips with the techniques his Pershing Square Holdings investment company uses to judge businesses.
“I have learned that the key success factor for venture investments is assessing the founder,” Ackerman said.
“Over time, you learn to do so after making mistakes and developing and honing the skills to identify the best talent and leadership. …When you find the right leader and you can couple that leader with a great business that has lost its way, that’s when the magic happens, and when massive value can be created,” he said.
Ackerman said he met Phillips two months ago and has remained “in pretty close touch with him” since then.
He said when he spent 90 minutes with the 54-year-old congressman on Friday as Phillips spoke to Pershing Square employees, Ackerman decided to increase his initial donation of $3,300 to $1 million.
“I am making this investment at a high-risk, but critically important moment,” Ackerman said.
He praised Phillips’ entrepreneurship, which included developing the Belvedere vodka and Talenti gelato brands in the U.S.
Saying he had developed a “spidey” sense for determining effective leaders, Ackerman said “Dean is a first-class human being and person of character.”
“He is a super-talented, highly-intelligent, and charismatic leader. And he is not just a business man,” Ackerman said.
He noted that Phillips is ranked 13th in the Lugar Center’s ranking of bipartisanship among members of Congress.
“One of the inspirations for my increased support for Dean is how well he resonated with the Republicans and more right-leaning members of our company, in addition to the centrists and Democrats in the room when he visited us,” he said.
Regarding Biden, Ackerman wrote, “The problem is that the incumbent CEO has a large base of support and a huge incumbency advantage because the CEO we want to hire is not known to nearly all of the shareholders.”
“The current CEO is well past his prime,” he continued, “and if he were available in the market for other opportunities, he would have no chance of getting any job, let alone be hired to run a business of this scale and quality.”
Of course, the same arguments against Biden have appeared before.
It’s worth remembering the 2020 election featured a Democratic candidate of perhaps equal ability and bipartisan appeal as Ackerman’s descriptions of Phillips: Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.
Her party’s antics and treatment of her led her to abandon it and declare herself an independent in 2022.
Phillips has 3.2 percent of composite Real Clear Politics polling in the primary race against Biden’s nearly 70 percent, and Democrats have kept him and Williamson (7.9 percent) off the ballot in several states.
Democrats obviously prefer Biden to people like Gabbard and, as we’ll most likely see, Phillips.
But who knows?
Money talks. Efforts by Ackerman and his friends might be in a language Democrats recognize.
But unlike Ackerman, I’m not sure I would bet on it.