Sunday, February 12, 2006

THE METROPOLITICAL PATRICK BYRNE: I see that the CEO of Overstock Inc., Patrick Byrne, got heat last week from some bloggers for describing a suit he is pursuing against short-sellers as "my jihad." This is fairly mild, as verbal clumsiness goes, but it got me to thinking about his politics. What other "jihads" does Byrne endorse?

After all, my only personal experience with jihads is this one, which happened down the street from me a few years ago. It was unpleasant, but I'm willing to keep an open mind on the subject. Maybe there are some good "jihads" out there that Byrne can suggest (in addition to, of course, his screwy feuds with Bolshie newspapers like the New York Post and his advocacy of the constantly discredited, goofy naked shorting crusade.)

To find out Byrne's position in the great political divide, I turned to a database called Newsmeat that compiles campaign contributions. Seems that Byrne has given us some clues as to his political leanings. And it is quite a picture! He is clearly a man for our times.

If you lean a bit to port you'll be glad to know that Byrne is firmly in the Democratic camp. Just this past November, Byrne gave $5,000 to the Campaign for America's Future.

This group is very much in the "progressive" camp. "We are challenging the big money corporate agenda by encouraging Americans to speak up — to discuss and debate a new vision of an economy and a future that works for all of us," says its website. CAF is critical of the Bush administration, with articles and action campaigns such as "Bush Running on Empty Promises."

The picture gets a whole lot less "progressive" if you go back in time even a little bit. Byrne gave $2,000 to conservative Utah Republican senator (and short-selling foe) Robert Bennett. True, Bennett is from his home state. But what about the $2,500 contribution Byrne made to the anti-John Kerry "Swift Boat Vets and POWs for Truth" on Aug 20, 2004? Or the $25,0000 he gave to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2003 and the $10,000 he gave to the Republican National Committee in 1996? Was there a lot of party-switching among senators during those seven years?

When Byrne's generosity with the anti-Kerry forces was first noted by Carol Remond in a Dow Jones News Service story, she said that this indicated a move to the right. Not really, Carol. Seems that what we have here is a new kind of political guy, a metropolitical whose real politics are... well, I don't know, but who is comfortable in both the "progressive" and the "hard-right-anti-Kerry" camp.

I admire Byrne's ability to change political affiliation so often, and so dramatically. Maybe he'll come to his senses on the naked shorting issue as well. Come on, Patrick. Flip-flop on this one too! It will do your reputation a lot of good, believe you me.

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