RIP Max Palevsky, a Man Whose Vast Wealth Helped Stop a War

“Max Palevsky, a pioneer in the computer industry and a founder of the computer-chip giant Intel who used his fortune to back Democratic presidential candidates and to amass an important collection of American Arts and Crafts furniture, died on Wednesday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 85,” reports the New York Times.

Palevsky used his vast wealth to influence politics, especially to oppose the Vietnam War. He was one of the liberal mega-givers who made the Eugene McCarthy campaign possible in 1968, along with such people as Stanley Sheinbaum, Stewart Mott, and Martin Peretz. Describing the McCarthy campaign as “shoestring,” Christopher Hitchens added:

When one says “shoestring,” by the way, one is forced to recall that the whole operation was essentially underwritten by a few ill-sorted but well-off individuals including, notably, Max Palevsky, Blair Clark, and Martin Peretz. Today’s campaign-finance laws—or “reforms” as they are always described—make a similar undertaking extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Hitchens may be a bit misty-eyed in his memory of a “shoestring” campaign. Time reported that “In 1968 Clean Gene led the list of preconvention spenders with an $11 million outlay.” But he’s right about the campaign finance laws. An outsider candidate with a mission, like McCarthy in 1968 or George McGovern in 1972 (to whom Palevsky is said to have given $320,000), is not allowed to jump-start his campaign with a few big contributions from donors who share his vision.

Ironically, Palevsky later donated $1 million to a California initiative that would have limited campaign contributions. It is not recorded whether Palevsky specifically wished that he and his friends had been forbidden to make the McCarthy and McGovern campaigns possible. But he did make them happen, and the restrictions on such outsider campaigns are one of the big costs of our current campaign finance laws.

Cross-posted at Politico Arena.