By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Stern was run out of New York City after a series of scathing articles about him ran in the Daily News— the archrival of the New York Post. Stern claims Burkle was the source of the information that destroyed his career and forced him to move out of pricey Manhattan — he now lives in the Catskills, where his wife initially took a job at a salad-dressing factory to support them.
“We had to liquidate our retirement accounts,” says Stern, “and we’re far from recovered. It was devastating. It was [a] nightmare. And it’s still not over.”
Stern is suing Burkle and the Clintons, among others, for defamation and additional damages, and says he was merely a “pawn” in a larger game of Burkle’s to force Rupert Murdoch to rein in the coverage about Burkle, the Clintons and their crowd by his New York Postreporters. (Murdoch owns the newspaper.)
Burkle openly admits he’s hardly above trying to manipulate the media. He says Stern is wrong about the details of their dustup, and that if he really wanted to get to Murdoch, he would merely have called him up — billionaire to billionaire — and “cut a deal.” In fact, Burkle says, “Murdoch wishes he made a deal.”
In the end, negative coverage of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign by the New York Post only grew more intense. Over Memorial Day weekend, the newspaper’s front page ridiculed Clinton’s remarks about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy for two days in a row, with blaring headlines like “SHE SAID WHAT?” and unflattering pictures of the New York senator with her mouth hanging open.
ALL TAKEN TOGETHER, BURKLE’Spolitical baggage looks awfully hefty, and is not something Obama would want to hang around his neck, especially with the campaign slogan “Change We Can Believe In.” Still, Darry Sragow, the Democratic political strategist, says, “Ron Burkle brings invaluable resources to the table that any political candidate will want to take advantage of.” And Dan Schnur, a Republican consultant, notes, “Obama needs to bring the party together, and Ron Burkle is a pretty good place to start.”
The Obama camp, though, remains cautious. “On the immediate side of things, [Burkle] certainly won’t have the relationship he’s had with Clinton,” says Jeremy Bernard, the Obama camp’s fund-raiser. “It could be that he builds the relationship, but if he comes aboard, he won’t suddenly be the main host, holding fund-raisers at his home.”
Regardless, Burkle has been reaching out. “I talked to [the Obama campaign] two months ago,” says the billionaire, “and I told them I was tired of all this partisan shit.”
Asked if he could deliver labor unions to Obama as some kind of olive branch, Burkle says, “That’s not what I do ... I don’t deliver my friends.”
Maybe not, but it seems the billionaire forgot to tell his labor-boss pals about his supposed firewall. Two days before Burkle spoke to the Weekly, Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary/treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, rang the Weekly, apropos of nothing, and touted Burkle as an “exemplary employer.” When questioned about who asked her to make the unsolicited phone call, Durazo said she was asked by Burkle’s people.
Moreover, in the last election season, the billionaire who insists he doesn’t play that kind of game clearly tried to deliver his labor friends — in the 2006 California race for attorney general. Durazo told the Weekly Burkle “approached” the labor union about attending a fund-raiser for Jerry Brown, who later won his race for attorney general and is now eyeing the governorship.
Similarly, with relations tense between Obama and Hillary Clinton, Burkle told the Weekly he has been "more than willing" to act as a go-between for the two candidates. Politically, it's a smart move if he can come across as a peacemaker to both camps. (Burkle's media handlers say in a letter to the editor this week that Burkle never offered these mediation services to either candidate, as stated in the original Weekly story.)
But in what may be a sign of Ron Burkle’s future, no one, so far, has taken him up on the offer. The regular calls from the White House, and the jets that frequently arrived in L.A. to quietly offload the most powerful man in the world along with his Secret Service contingent, all bound for Green Acres, will very likely be no more.
Tips? Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.
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