Person

Steven M. Gluckstern

Nationality:

American

Occupation:

Asset manager and LGBT issues funder

Steven M. Gluckstern is a philanthropist who spent most of his career in the financial services industry. He is a prolific funder of left-of-center political and social causes, particularly the promotion of same-sex relationships and transgenderism. [1] One of Gluckstern’s initiatives as a financial executive was a controversial proposal to a number of city governments to use the power of eminent domain to seize mortgages which were likely to fail, with assistance from one of his firms. [2]

Gluckstern was the first board chairman of the Democracy Alliance, a powerful and secretive organization that wealthy left-of-center philanthropists have used to channel more than $600 million towards political causes favored by the Democratic Party establishment since 2005. [3]

Education and Career

Steven Gluckstern received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Amherst College in 1972. He went on to attend the University of Massachusetts Amherst for a master’s degree in education and Stanford University for an MBA. In 1982, Gluckstern became an associate with Lehman Brothers. Two years later, he became the chief financial officer of a medical product distributor, and later a senior manager with the Berkshire Hathaway Insurance Group. Around this time, he also joined the executive board of Zurich Financial Services, a position he would hold until 2002. [4]

Gluckstern would remain in the insurance industry until 1998, when he co-founded a private equity firm called Capital Z Partners. Two years later, he moved on to a mutual funds company, then helped found another financial management firm and remained its chief executive officer until 2004. In 2006, Gluckstern became the board chair of the newly launched Democracy Alliance, remaining with the organization until 2008, when he transitioned to overseeing the board of a health sciences corporation. [5]

Democracy Alliance Launch

Gluckstern was the first board chair of the Democracy Alliance, a collective of wealthy grantmakers which has facilitated millions of dollars in contributions to some of the most influential think tanks and advocacy groups on the political left. These have included the Center for American Progress, which was founded by long-time Democratic Party operative John Podesta, and Media Matters for America, founded by activist and pundit David Brock to selectively target right-of-center media for alleged factual errors. According to Vox, Gluckstern was one of several leading left-of-center philanthropists involved with the organization, along with George Soros and his son Jonathan Soros, as well as former insurance executive Peter B. Lewis, who provided a substantial portion of the group’s initial funding. [6] At the time, Gluckstern criticized the Democratic Party’s previous approach to fundraising and elections, and said that creating a permanent left-of-center majority in the United States would require abandoning what he called the party’s “periodic” approach to investing in campaigns. [7]

Support for Obama

Gluckstern was a top backer of the Obama 2008 presidential campaign, and hosted a high-dollar fundraising event for then-U.S. Senator at his mansion. According to New York magazine, the fundraiser was part of a broader effort to win over wealthy Democratic Party donors who would otherwise have supported the campaign of Hillary Clinton, who, along with her husband and former president Bill Clinton, was closer to the party establishment. [8]

Foreclosure Eminent Domain Proposal

In 2012, Gluckstern took over the San Francisco-based Mortgage Resolution Partners. [9] As the firm’s executive chairman, he proposed that municipal governments seize failing mortgages using the power of eminent domain, using funds that Mortgage Resolution Partners would provide. The firm would then help re-sell the mortgages to new investors, receiving brokerage fees for arranging the sales. Gluckstern insisted the proposal would save homeowners while also preserving tax revenue and benefiting the financial institutions that owned the homeowners’ mortgages. According to left-wing magazine Mother Jones, critics of the proposal described it as a wealth transfer from homeowners to Gluckstern’s firm, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency had cautioned against using eminent domain to overrule financial contracts such as mortgages. [10]

Environmental, Social, and Governance Work

In 2018, Gluckstern took over Santa Fe Farms LLC, a producer of hemp-based goods such as paper, oil, and biodegradable plastic. The company claims to be at the forefront of producing advanced carbon-based chemical products and building materials, and places an emphasis on aligning its operations with left-of-center environmental policy goals. (According to Santa Fe Farms, it chose hemp because the plant can allegedly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.) Under Gluckstern’s leadership, the company aims to not only comply with environmentalist objectives but also set the agenda for the rest of the industry: Santa Fe Farms partners with manufacturers in third-world countries, claiming to “offset” the carbon they produce, and it endorses the Environmental, Social, and Governance approach to investing, which aims to combine profits with left-of-center advocacy. [11]

Gluckstern is the president and board chair of the Palm Center, a left-of-center think tank. The Palm Center supports left-of-center advocacy on same-sex and transgender issues, with a special emphasis on the armed forces. The center celebrated the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the United States military and spoke out in favor of the Biden administration when it allowed transgender individuals to enlist starting in January 2021. [12] [13] Gluckstern and the Palm Center both provided initial grants to the Take Back the Court Foundation, a pressure group that promotes expanding the Supreme Court by adding left-of-center justices. [14]

References

  1. “Board.” Palm Center. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.palmcenter.org/about/board/ ^
  2. Josh Harkinson. “Inside the Radical Plan to Fight Foreclosures With Eminent Domain.” Mother Jones. January 7, 2013. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/eminent-domain-mortgage-gluckstern/ ^
  3. Andrew Prokop. “The Democracy Alliance: How a secretive group of donors helps set the progressive agenda.” Vox. November 24, 2014. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.vox.com/2014/11/24/7274819/democracy-alliance ^
  4. Steven Gluckstern (He/Him). LinkedIn. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/steven-gluckstern-94328517/ ^
  5. Steven Gluckstern (He/Him). LinkedIn. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/steven-gluckstern-94328517/ ^
  6. Andrew Prokop. “The Democracy Alliance: How a secretive group of donors helps set the progressive agenda.” Vox. November 24, 2014. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.vox.com/2014/11/24/7274819/democracy-alliance ^
  7. Thomas B. Edsall. “80 rich liberals contribute to new fund-raising group.” Herald-Tribune. August 7, 2005. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/2005/08/07/80-rich-liberals-contribute-to-new-fund-raising-group/28856879007/ ^
  8. John Heilemann. “Money Chooses Sides.” New York Magazine. April 13, 2007. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://nymag.com/news/politics/30634/ ^
  9. Steven Gluckstern (He/Him). LinkedIn. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/steven-gluckstern-94328517/ ^
  10. Josh Harkinson. “Inside the Radical Plan to Fight Foreclosures With Eminent Domain.” Mother Jones. January 7, 2013. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/eminent-domain-mortgage-gluckstern/ ^
  11. Steven Gluckstern (He/Him). LinkedIn. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/steven-gluckstern-94328517/ ^
  12. “Board.” Palm Center. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.palmcenter.org/about/board/ ^
  13. “Media.” Palm Center. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.palmcenter.org/media/?press_release_type=press_release ^
  14. Trip Brennan. “Take Back the Court Says Only a Bigger, More Progressive SCOTUS Can Save Democracy.” Blue Tent. January 7, 2021. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://bluetent.us/articles/policy-advocacy/take-back-the-court-wants-a-bigger-more-progressive-scotus/ ^

Connected Organizations

  1. Democracy Alliance (DA) (Other Group)
    Initial Founder, Former Chair
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