Bing key anti-Bush ad funder

Center for Responsive Politics' contributor donated $8.1 mil

WASHINGTON — Producer Steve Bing is playing a behind-the-scenes role in financing TV ads designed to defeat President Bush in November.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign watchdog org, named Bing as the top individual contributor to Democratic-leaning groups creating the ads. Bing has donated a total of $8.1 million so far this cycle, ranking above all other donors, including Peter Lewis, chairman of auto insurer Progressive Corp., who has doled out nearly $8 million, and billionaire investor George Soros, who has ponied up more than $7.8 million.

The only other showbiz name making the million-dollar club is producer Marcy Carsey, who wrote exactly $1 million in checks to independent liberal groups so far this election cycle.

Bing and Carsey channeled most of their money to the Joint Victory Campaign 2004, the fund-raising arm of two interconnected groups — the Media Fund and America Coming Together — which created the ads. Set up by Democratic insiders, these orgs are known as 527s because of the tax code that governs them.

The Media Fund and America Coming Together have collected $23.2 million and spent more than $20 million on anti-Bush ads in 17 battleground states so far. The TV spots are likely to increase as the presidential campaign heats up in the summer months. The Federal Election Commission’s decision last week not to regulate the political activity of any 527s this election cycle is expected to result in a proliferation of the groups and their ad spending.

“The FEC ruling gives a greenlight to 527s groups and legitimizes their operations at least for the remainder of this election cycle, and that could shake money from the trees that wasn’t falling before,” said Steve Weiss, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics.

Bing is heir to a $600 million real estate fortune and wrote “Missing in Action,” co-wrote a screenplay for “Kangaroo Jack” and runs Shangri-La Entertainment.

In 1998 he contributed $3.5 million to the campaign for Rob Reiner-led Proposition 10, which imposed a 50¢-per-pack tax on cigarettes to fund child care and anti-tobacco programs for kids in California. He has also given millions to the National Resources Defense Council and the Democratic Party over the years.