Best Political Donor

People, Politics, and Media

The left needs a better political infrastructure. For decades, wealthy conservatives have funded an enormous network of think tanks, journals of opinion, publishing houses, and political apparatchiks. This patient work has paid off in the development of a right-wing machine that not only controls all three branches of the federal government but has seized the upper hand in our nation's political discourse as well. That's why the efforts of people like Rob Glaser are so important.

The former Microsoft executive is best known for founding RealNetworks in 1993. The company provides the most user-friendly software for audio and video streaming on the Internet and has made Glaser a very wealthy man. Long known for his left-wing views—RealNetworks was originally called Progressive Networks— Glaser became a very active political giver in 2003, eventually donating more than $2.2 million to so-called 527 groups—named after an IRS code governing their tax-exempt status. Glaser gave most of his political donations, $1.9 million, to America Coming Together (ACT), a get-out-the-vote group run by Harold Ickes, President Bill Clinton's former deputy chief of staff, and Steve Rosenthal, former political director for the AFL-CIO. Last December, after President Bush's re-election, Glaser did not despair. Instead, he became chair of the board and a key investor in Air America, a provider of progressive talk radio programming to stations nationwide. Both investments demonstrate Glaser's political smarts. ACT is dedicated to long-term, grassroots voter mobilization— the kind of effort at which Karl Rove excels for Republicans. Air America is filling the void of liberal talk on radio. The network has grown to 53 affiliates in a little over a year, providing progressive viewpoints that are not otherwise heard on the nation's airwaves. A few more Rob Glasers could really make a difference in our nation's politics and dial the country's discourse back to the left.

Rob Glaser's Picks

Best Seattle Radio Station:


Best Radio Talk Show Host:

Randi Rhodes (Air America).

Best TV Talk Show Host:

Al Franken (his Air America radio program is carried on the Sundance Channel).

Best Presidential Candidate in 2008:

Barack Obama in 2012.

Best Activist Group:

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (

Best Supreme Court Candidate:

Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges, who upheld Gov. Christine Gregoire's election.

Best Recent Political Read:

A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain, and the Mastery of the Sudan, by Eve Troutt Powell (a MacArthur "genius grant" recipient who happens to be a high-school classmate).

Best Music to Stream:

Foo Fighters live in Roswell, N.M. (

Best Video to Stream:

Big Brother 24-hour webcam (

Best Microsoft Product:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (

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