Alexa envy: Samsung may go on a $1 billion spending spree to buy up AI companies

Samsung may be about to embark on an epic spending spree acquiring companies dedicated to artificial intelligence. A report from South Korea, quoting an anonymous executive from Samsung’s United States offices, says it has a $1 billion budget put aside for buying up exciting firms working on AI.

The massive sum won’t only be used for acquisitions, but also to invest in companies involved in AI. Although there’s no question a billion dollars will buy you plenty of talent and tech, it’s still only a fraction of the $8 billion Samsung recently spent acquiring Harman International. However, while the two may not initially seem connected — Harman is best known for its in-car infotainment systems and other audio/visual equipment — it has divisions hard at work on AI projects, smart cities, and voice control. These are all key applications for AI and machine learning technology.

More: Everything we think we know about the Samsung Galaxy S8

The Harman deal hints at Samsung’s deeper interest in AI and the companies working on it, but there has been plenty more overt evidence. The most obvious is Samsung’s acquisition of Viv Labs, an AI company from the team behind Apple’s Siri, plus the many references to its own AI assistant coming soon, which we currently known as Bixby. Additionally, through its Catalyst investment arm, Samsung contributed to SoundCloud’s recent funding round, focusing on development of its Houndify AI platform. Joining the Catalyst program is Samsung Next, a $150 million fund for startups specializing in VR, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence.

Samsung has also spoken officially about its interest in buying up AI companies. In mid-2016, Samsung’s head of software research and development told Bloomberg, “We are actively looking for M&A targets of all sorts in the software area. We are open to all possibilities, including artificial intelligence. Intelligence is no longer an option. It’s a must.”

Samsung’s head of home appliances repeated a similar line during a CES 2017 interview. “We will continue to make efforts to develop technology and products that can really read the minds of the consumers, so they don’t even have to move a finger when the want to do something,” the executive is quoted as saying by the Financial Times.

This is the first time we’re hearing about a possible number attached to Samsung’s interest in AI, and it’s large enough to show the depth of its intent. Our first look at Samsung’s big artificial intelligence push may come with the Galaxy S8, which is expected to feature Bixby, an AI assistant to rival Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

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Kushner family (Kikes) in talks to buy Miami Marlins

(JTA) — The family of presidential adviser Jared Kushner is in talks to purchase the Miami Marlins baseball team, The New York Times reported.

The Kushners, a New York area real estate family, regard the team’s $1.6 billion price tag as too high, the Times reported Thursday.

The negotiations, which have been ongoing for several months, are being led by Joshua Kushner, a venture capitalist and Jared’s younger brother, and Joseph Meyer, his brother-in-law and key lieutenant for the family’s investments.

The talks include a complicated financial arrangement that would include bringing in partners later, unnamed sources told the Times.

Jared Kushner is a senior adviser to President Donald Trump and the husband of his eldest daughter, Ivanka. The couple married in 2009 following her conversion to Judaism.

Neither Jared Kushner nor his father, Charles, the family patriarch who spent over a year in prison for illegal campaign donations, tax evasion and witness tampering, is participating in the effort, the sources added.

Any deal would have to be approved by Major League Baseball, which would closely scrutinize the buyer’s financing and probably seek to ensure that Charles Kushner had no role in operations, according to the Times report.

Jared Kushner, who has pledged to refrain from any involvement in transactions tied to his family to avoid the possibility of conflict of interests, had previously bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers with his brother. They eventually withdrew from the bidding in 2012. The winning group paid over $2 billion.

Representatives for the Kushners, the Marlins and the LionTree investment bank declined to comment when approached by the Times.

The Marlins are currently owned by Jeffrey Loria, a Jewish businessman from New York. He paid $158 million for the team in 2002 after selling the Montreal Expos back to Major League Baseball.

The Marlins won the World Series in 2003, defeating the New York Yankees, but since then have not returned to the playoffs.

Qatar agrees to buy $12m in fuel for Gaza power plant

Qatar has agreed to pay $12 million for fuel for the Gaza Strip’s sole power plant, in a move that seeks to end the serious energy crisis gripping the Palestinian enclave.

Gaza is currently experiencing the worst electricity shortage in years, with power supplied to households only three to four hours a day in a cold winter.

In recent weeks, Gaza residents have staged spontaneous demonstrations, including a demonstration Thursday night that saw thousands of Palestinians streaming through the streets of Jabaliya, located in the northern part of the Strip, demanding more electricity. Hamas cracked down on the dissent, arresting protesters and targeting journalists covering the protests.

Qatar agreed to the deal following a meeting Sunday in Doha between Hamas Deputy Political Leader Ismail Haniyeh and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, emir of the State of Qatar, Hamas said in an online statement.

أمير دولة قطر يوعز للسفير القطري بتنفيذ خطوات عملية في حل أزمة الكهرباء في قطاع على عدة مستويات.

Following the meeting, according to the statement, the Qatari leader ordered “urgent action to implement a number of steps to resolve the electricity crisis in Gaza.”

The Chairman of the Qatari National Committee for Reconstruction of Gaza, Muhammad al-Amadi called the Acting Director of the Palestinian Energy Authority Zafer Milhem, and told him Qatar agreed to pay four million dollars a month over the next three months, the Hamas-linked site Pal Info Center reported.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah confirmed the $12 million deal in statement to the official PA news outlet Wafa. He attributed the deal’s success to Abbas’s “continual communication” with Qatar.

The two million residents of Gaza require around 450-500 megawatts of power per day, but are receiving less than half of that. With cold winters, demand has spiked — leading to the shortages.

On Saturday, Turkey pledged to send 15,000 tons of fuel to the Gaza Strip in an effort to end the crippling electricity shortage in the Palestinian enclave.

A Palestinian girl does her homework during a power cut in the Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, on January 4, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

A Palestinian girl does her homework during a power cut in the Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, on January 4, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Energy authorities are desperately cash-strapped, in part because of unpaid bills. Nearly 70 percent of households do not pay their electricity bills, either because they can’t afford it or because of lax collection, the UN estimates.

Life has become increasingly difficult for Gaza’s 2 million residents, who are squeezed into the tiny coastal territory. Hamas’s violent takeover a decade ago triggered a border blockade by Israel and Egypt that, among other things, sharply aggravated power shortages.

Hamas seized control of Gaza from Fatah, which dominates the PA, in a bloody battle in 2007.

The two factions have been unable to form a unity government and have been in an extended dispute over tax bills on fuel imports.

AT&T Agrees to Buy Time Warner (Jewish Company) for $85.4 Billion (NOT GOOD!!!)

In the world of media, bigger remains better.

So in the wake of Comcast’s $30 billion takeover of NBCUniversal and Verizon Communications’ serial acquisitions of the Huffington Post and Yahoo, AT&T has bought one of the remaining crown jewels of the entertainment industry.

The telecommunications giant agreed on Saturday to buy Time Warner, the home of HBO and CNN, for about $85.4 billion, creating a new colossus capable of both producing content and distributing it to millions with wireless phones, broadband subscriptions and satellite TV connections.

The proposed deal is likely to spur yet more consolidation among media companies, which have already looked to partners to get bigger. This year, Lionsgate struck a deal to buy the pay-TV channel Starz for $4.4 billion. And the Redstone family, which controls both CBS and Viacom, has urged the corporate siblings, which split 10 years ago, to consider reuniting.

AT&T and Time Warner said both of their boards unanimously approved the deal.

“When Jeff and I started talking, it became clear to us very quickly that we shared a very similar vision,” Randall L. Stephenson, AT&T’s chief executive, told reporters on a conference call on Saturday, referring to Jeffrey Bewkes, Time Warner’s chief executive. “Time Warner, we believe, is the clear leader in premium content.”


Most analysts and investors have noted that Time Warner was part of one of the biggest merger follies of all time, when it sold itself to AOL at the height of the dot-com boom. That combination — also pitched on the idea of uniting content and the internet — proved unwieldy and was later stripped apart to a few core businesses.

This time, however, the rise of online outlets like Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube and the shift of younger customers from traditional media have pressured media companies to seek out consolidation partners. These media companies are anticipating drops in fees from cable service providers and declining revenue from advertisers. Getting bigger would give them more negotiating leverage with both service providers and with advertisers.

Among their top priorities is finding new ways of reaching consumers. HBO, for example, offers its HBO Now service to deliver shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld” to consumers who do not have cable subscriptions.

Even Disney, widely seen as the strongest content company, with brands like Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, has been grappling with how to overcome challenges facing its network channels. ESPN, which long served as a growth engine, is now facing declining ratings and subscriber erosion, putting advertising sales into question.

“The biggest thing that we’re trying to do now is figure out what technology’s role is in distributing the great content that we have,” Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, said at a presentation at Boston College on Oct. 5.

Comcast’s takeover of NBC has proved a model for this new world of media deal-making. While the cable giant has occasionally been scrutinized for possible regulatory violations, NBCUniversal has generally thrived under its current ownership, with NBC enjoying a ratings comeback and Universal delivering a wide range of hit films, from blockbusters like “Jurassic World” to dramas like “Straight Outta Compton.”

Still, Time Warner’s deal with AT&T is likely to face tough scrutiny from government regulators increasingly skeptical of power being consolidated among a few titans. Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee for president, indicated on Saturday that he would seek to block the merger if elected “because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”

Over the last decade, Time Warner has spent significant time selling or spinning off AOL, many of the Time Inc. stable of publications, and Time Warner Cable, which was sold to another cable operator. The remaining businesses are HBO, one of the most-admired pay-TV channels; Warner Bros. movie studios; and cable channels that include CNN, TNT, Turner Sports and TBS.

Overseeing much of Time Warner’s downsizing was Mr. Bewkes, for whom Saturday’s agreement serves as validation of sorts. He faced tough questions two years ago when he turned down 21st Century Fox’s bid of $85 a share, arguing that the offer sharply undervalued his company.

Now, Mr. Bewkes has found a suitor willing to offer significantly more — $107.50 a share in cash and stock — and done so at a time when media companies are under pressure to strike their own deals. AT&T’s offer represents a roughly 35 percent premium to where Time Warner’s stock was trading before news reports of the merger talks emerged.

“Time Warner chairman and C.E.O. Jeff Bewkes and his senior management team can see where the entire legacy media world is headed: secular decline,” Richard Greenfield, a media analyst at BTIG, wrote in a research note on Saturday.

Mr. Greenfield added, “We believe Bewkes will end up being remembered as the smartest C.E.O. in sector — knowing when to sell and not overstaying his welcome to maximize value for shareholders.”

The announcement on Saturday also affirms the ambitious deal-making of AT&T. One of the former so-called Baby Bells that arose from the 1982 breakup of the original AT&T, the company has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on acquisitions to reconstitute some of its parent’s empire.

AT&T’s History of Invention and Breakups
AT&T, once known informally as Ma Bell, is a storied American brand that goes back under a succession of names to the late 19th century, after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.

That has included buying DirecTV for $48.5 billion, adding satellite TV subscriptions as an additional source of negotiating leverage with content providers, along with the satellite company’s steady stream of cash.

AT&T has also made other moves to acquire content. It has set up a joint venture with Peter Chernin, a prominent media executive, and the company was one of the bidders for Yahoo this year.

The telecom company has also been working on its own online video service, for which Time Warner’s trove of media could prove enormously helpful. Combining with AT&T is meant to accelerate those efforts, Mr. Bewkes said. “We think this is great for continued innovation in content,” he said during Saturday’s conference call.

Still, AT&T’s biggest rivals have not stood still. Comcast struck an agreement this spring to buy DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion, adding the “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda” franchises to its media holdings.

Verizon has charted a different course, focusing more on internet-based properties and advertising technology players rather than traditional media companies. Its $4.8 billion deal to buy Yahoo, rooted in the aging tech company’s hundreds of millions of users, follows previous takeovers of the Huffington Post and AOL.

Not everyone seems persuaded by the latest flurry of deal-making. Disney commented on the deal in a statement late Saturday, saying, “A transaction of this magnitude obviously warrants very close regulatory scrutiny.”

Senator Edward J. Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, also put out a statement cautioning approval. “I will be looking closely at what this merger means for consumers and their pocketbooks, and whether it stands up to stands up to the rigorous review standards set by the Department of Justice’s antitrust division in the last few years,” he said.

And in a Twitter post on Saturday, Steve Case, the former chief executive of AOL responsible for the doomed merger with Time Warner, wrote of AT&T’s move, “#DejaVu.”

Can drugmakers buy doctor loyalty with free meals?

TUESDAY, June 21, 2016 — Doctors who accept free meals from drug companies are more likely to prescribe the brand-name drugs those companies sell, a new study suggests.

Physicians who received just one free meal, valued at less than $20 on average, were up to two times more likely to prescribe a promoted brand-name drug than a cheaper generic alternative, compared with doctors who did not accept a meal, the study found.

Doctors who received multiple meals were up to three times more likely to prescribe these drugs.

“To my surprise, tiny, tiny payments are associated with big differences in prescribing,” said study author Colette DeJong, a research fellow at University of California San Francisco’s (UCSF) Center for Healthcare Value.

Additional meals and pricier fare were linked with even higher prescribing rates of the promoted drug.

“So whether you get zero, one, two, three or four meals has a step-wise increase in the prescribing of the brand-name drug that’s being promoted, and that has huge implications for Medicare and huge implications for patients,” said DeJong.

Marketing guidelines established by the American Medical Association and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) allow meals and gifts to doctors worth up to $100.

Most of the meals in the study were of low value. “It’s more like the pizza in the doctor’s office than the formal dinner out,” DeJong noted.

That’s important, noted senior study author Dr. Adams Dudley, director of UCSF’s Center for Healthcare Value. It’s not the value of the gift driving doctors’ prescribing patterns; it’s “feeling like you owe the drug rep something,” he said.

Most Medicare beneficiaries are in prescription drug plans where the median copay is $1 for generics and $40 to $80 for brand-name drugs, DeJong noted.

“You can imagine for a senior on 10 or 20 medicines, that’s a huge cost every month,” she observed.

However, the study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. It may be that doctors attend industry events where information is provided on drugs they already prefer, the authors noted.

Dr. David Grande, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, in Philadelphia, thinks that’s unlikely.

“These findings provide even more support to do away with gifts altogether,” he said.

But PhRMA spokeswoman Holly Campbell took issue with the study.

“This study cherry-picks physician prescribing data for a subset of medicines to advance a false narrative,” she said in a statement.

Drug manufacturers routinely engage with doctors to share drug safety and efficacy information, new indications for approved medicines and potential side effects, Campbell noted.

What’s more, physicians’ prescribing patterns are greatly influenced by their clinical knowledge and experience as well patients’ individual needs, she added.

For the study, UCSF researchers linked information from two federal databases. One includes prescribing data for physicians in Medicare Part D (the prescription drug program). The other captures the value of food and beverages that drug makers provide to doctors.

The team identified the most-prescribed brand-name drugs in each of four common drug classes in 2013. These included Forest Laboratories’ beta blocker Bystolic (nebivolol) and Daiichi Sankyo’s ACE inhibitor Benicar (olmesartan medoxomil) — both for heart conditions, as well as AstraZeneca’s cholesterol-lowering statin drug Crestor (rosuvastatin calcium) and Pfizer’s antidepressant Pristiq (desvenlafaxine succinate).

None of the drugs in the study has an identical generic alternative. That was by design. Pharmacists often swap a brand-name drug for its generic equivalent, the researchers explained. Instead, the team picked popular brands within drug classes that have “great generic options,” DeJong said.

On many Medicare Part D plans, these drugs are “non-preferred,” she added. That means seniors pay more out-of-pocket than they would for generics or “preferred” brand-name drugs.

The study found nearly 280,000 physicians received roughly 63,500 payments totaling $1.4 million related to the four brand-name drugs. Ninety-five percent of payments were for meals, with an average cost of less than $20.

About 156,000 of those doctors wrote more than 20 prescriptions in at least one of the four categories.

Even after adjusting for other factors like prescribing volume, doctors who received a single meal were more likely to prescribe Crestor over other statins, Bystolic over other beta blockers, Benicar over other ACE inhibitors and Pristiq over other antidepressants.

The study was published June 20 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Payments for food and beverages provided to doctors totaled $224.5 million in 2014, JAMA Internal Medicine Editor-at-large Dr. Robert Steinbrook noted in an accompanying editorial.

“If drug and device manufacturers were to stop sending money to physicians for promotional speaking, meals and other activities without clear medical justification and invest more in independent bona fide research on safety, effectiveness, and affordability, our patients and the health care system would be better off,” Steinbrook concluded.

More information

To look up the value of meals your doctor received from drug representatives, go to the government website Open Payments.

Arab men flock to refugee camps to buy little Syrian girls

The Middle East refugee camps have become shopping centers for rich men, where young girls are being sold for a cheap price, reports the Norwegian newspaper Hegnar.

Arab men buy Syrian teen girls for marriage and sex, and according to Arab media most of the Syrian refugee girls are being sold to Saudi Arabia.

– The only thing we currently hear about is that one can get a Syrian wife for 100 dinars (about $140), writes the Jordanian commentator Maher Abu Tair.

He also writes that it is a combination of the low price and the virtually non-existent conditions from the families, that makes a large number of Arab men flocking to the refugee camps for the little Syrian girls.

At various forums on Internet, Arab men are seeking Syrian girls for marriage, and the requests are rife.

According to commentators, not a single imam or religious scholar has renounced the abuse. On the contrary.

– There is nothing wrong with such marriages if men can afford to pay, said the Libyan imam, Sheik Ashraf al-Aqrabi.

Johnny Depp To Buy Site Of Wounded Knee Massacre, Give It Back To Native Americans

In an interview with The Daily Mail on Sunday, well-known actor Johnny Depp disclosed that he intends to buy Wounded Knee, a national historic landmark, and gift it back to the Indian people. He shared that he is ready to spend millions in order to give control back to those that should have inherited the land, and help make right what went so wrong back in 1890.

“It’s very sacred ground and many atrocities were committed against the Sioux there,” he said. “And in the 1970s there was a stand-off between the Feds (Federal government) and the people who should own that land. This historical land is so important to the Sioux culture and all I want to do is buy it and give it back. Why doesn’t the government do that?

Perhaps it was Depp’s stint playing the role of Tonto in the box office production The Lone Ranger that inspired him to pursue such action; whatever the inspiration, the activism will most certainly be appreciated by many.

Depp spent a massive amount of time doing research about the various tribes and received the approval from many Native American groups before the filming of The Lone Ranger began. His respect for the Native American culture runs deep, and he wanted to make sure that all those involved with the production were doing right by “the Indian” in the way they portrayed the various tribes.

“The idea was to give back to them and to make sure that we got it right,” he said in the lengthy interview.

According to the news source, Depp is intent on following through with the aforementioned plan. The asking price for Wound Knee is $3.9 million, which is a fraction of what Depp makes from one production. That said, there is little standing in the way of him keeping true to his promise. 

“I am doing my best to make that happen. It’s land they were pushed on to and then they were massacred there. It really saddens me,” he stated.

The area near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (in South Dakota) is where the last major battle of the American Indian Wars took place. The fight reportedly began when an elderly tribesman refused to hand over his weapon. Troops attacked, and at least 150 members of the Lakota tribe – including men, women, and children – were killed.

Honoring the Native American culture by purchasing the historical location will be a major step in helping to make right what went so wrong over a hundred years ago. The event has caused outrage from historians as at least 20 American soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their role in the massacre. Now, at least, thepublic is more educated on the solemn history and can do what’s right moving forward.

Gulf states looking to buy Israel’s Iron Dome system for protection against Iran

(JTA) — Bahrain and several other Gulf states are in negotiations to buy the Israeli-developed Iron Dome defense system for protection from “a growing arsenal of Iranian missiles.”

Bahrain’s foreign minister, Khalid bin Mohammed, told Sky News that the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, are interested in purchasing the Israeli weapon for the entire council.

“The Israelis have their small Iron Dome. We’ll have a much bigger one in the GCC,” Mohammed said.

The Iron Dome system has intercepted approximately 85 percent of missiles fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip since it became operational in 2011, according to the Times of Israel. It was produced through American contractors and the Israeli arms firm Rafael.

Mohammed said that interest in the Iron Dome has increased as a result of the Iran nuclear deal, which will loosen sanctions on Iran. The Bahraini foreign minister said the agreement will allow Iran to “stockpile enough missiles to overwhelm any defense system we build in the Gulf.”

“Iran has been trying to undermine and topple government in our region for years,” he said.

A deal involving several Gulf states could potentially cost hundreds of billions of dollars, Sky News reported.

Virginia shooting victim’s father says he will need to buy gun to defend himself

Father of Alison Parker, who is campaigning for gun control, says he will have to get a firearm because ‘a lot of people take exception’ to his views

The father of Alison Parker, the journalist shot dead on live television on Wednesday, has said that now he is campaigning for gun control he will probably have to get a firearm to defend himself.

Andy Parker, spoke to reporters on Friday after he visited the television station, WDBJ7, where his daughter worked before being murdered – along with cameraman Adam Ward – by their former colleague Vester Lee Flanagan.

He continued to push for stricter gun control in the United States, where decades of mass shootings have failed to produce meaningful reform.

“I want to go to the Virginia legislature and I want them to look me in the eye and tell me why we can’t have a reasonable proposal, any reasonable background checks, the things common sense dictates,” Parker said. “I want them to look me in the eye and tell me why they won’t support that.”
He said that for any meaningful change to occur, reporters must keep reporting on gun control and politicians must stop being afraid of the powerful gun lobby, the NRA.

Yet, Parker said that he is “probably going to have to get a gun” because of the culture in the United States.

“When you’re in the media, as you know, and when you are taking on an issue like this, there are a lot of people who take exception to what you are saying, so I will probably have to do that,” Parker said.

He does not currently own a gun, but said: “I don’t want to take any chances.”

Earlier, the only survivor of the Virginia shooting has revealed new details of the terrifying event, through her husband.
Vester Flanagan: cameraman details ‘rage’ on assignment that led to job loss
Read more
On Wednesday, Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake chamber of commerce, was being interviewed by Parker and Ward when Flanagan shot all three, killing Parker and Ward and injuring Gardner.

The gunman attempted to shoot Gardner several times, but was only able to fire once because of a weapon malfunction.


Having woken from a medically induced coma, Gardner is now recovering in Carilion Roanoke Memorial hospital, her husband told ABC News.

“He pulled the trigger several times, only fired once,” Tim Gardner said on Friday morning.

Parker was interviewing Gardner at a local boardwalk, for a story on tourism. The bright lights of Ward’s camera equipment stopped Gardner from seeing the approaching gunman, her husband said.

“He shot three times at my wife and she was trying to dodge everything,” Tim Gardner said. “He missed twice and then she dove to the ground and curled up in a ball, and that’s when he walked over and shot her in the back.”

A spokesperson for the Virginia medical examiner’s office in Roanoke said Friday that both Parker and Ward died of gunshot wounds. Parker died of gunshot wounds to the head and chest, and Ward of gunshot wounds to the head and torso. Both were ruled homicides. The medical examiner’s office declined to release further details.
As many as 40,000 people watched the attack as the station broadcast live to the local area, including Tim Gardner. The gunman later posted first-person videos of the murders on social media. The videos were quickly removed.

Flanagan died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, hours later. Internal memos revealed that colleagues had pushed Flanagan to seek mental health help before he was dismissed from the station for threatening behavior.

WDBJ staff members have continued to broadcast, at times nearly in tears on air. Immediately after the incident, stunned workers said they worried the gunman would come to the station.

“I immediately think, ‘Is he coming to the station to kill us all?’” WDBJ assistant news director Greg Baldwin told ABC.

News outlets across the country responded to the shooting by posting message of support on social media, under the hashtag #WeStandWithWDBJ. The shooting has also renewed calls to stop the mentally ill from obtaining guns.

The remainder of ABC’s interview with Gardner is expected to be broadcast on Friday night, on 20/20.

Here’s why American billionaires may not be able to buy the 2016 election

Florida Senator Marco Rubio has one; Texas Senator Ted Cruz has one; even former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, considered a longshot for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, has a billionaire in his corner. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has two.

Campaign finance watchdog groups fear heavy spending by these ultra-rich Americans will warp the election – already expected to be the most money-soaked in history. The idea that billionaires can buy elections has taken root in the public imagination.

Those billionaires are now seeing small, early signs of a pushback. Whether these are the beginning of a new trend is far too soon to say, but polls show there is wider discontent about the perceived influence of big money in U.S. politics and a growing gulf between the country’s very rich and very poor.

These nascent rumblings – along with evidence that the super-rich are inefficient political spenders – raise questions about how effective billionaires will be in the 2016 elections.

Some voters in Philadelphia, for example, were turned off by the billionaires backing a top candidate in the city’s May 19 mayoral race. And a Silicon Valley startup, Crowdpac, is hoping to bank on public ire against big political spenders to attract small donations to its new for-profit election campaign crowdfunding platform.

“There’s growing public awareness about rich people trying to buy elections and that makes the task of winning all the more difficult,” said Darrell West, the author of “Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust,” and the director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution think tank.

Potential big donors dispute the notion they are trying to buy elections and say they are simply using their positions to try to influence the future of the country in a positive way.

“I do believe – and I’ve told my kids this – that I can do more for them by giving money to the right presidential candidate in 2016 than by leaving them double that amount in my will,” said David Walsh, a retired investor living in Jackson, Wyoming, who would not disclose his net worth but has given several multi-million dollar gifts to charitable causes and said he planned to donate heavily to candidates in 2016.

Miami car dealership mogul Norman Braman has been outspoken about backing his longtime protege Rubio; financial investor Foster Friess was in the audience cheering Santorum on when he announced his presidential bid two weeks ago; and Bob Mercer, the founder of a New York hedge fund, has been identified as supporting Cruz. The billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch have publicly vowed to spend nearly $900 million influencing races in 2016.


Amid the populist outcry against CEO pay and income inequality there may be some risks in candidates being so publicly linked to the extremely rich.

In Philadelphia, Anthony Hardy Williams was considered the favorite for the city’s next mayor. He won support from three billionaires, Joel Greenberg, Jeff Yass and Arthur Dantchik, founders of the Susquehanna International Group, a global financial firm headquartered in a Philadelphia suburb. The three backed Williams, encouraging voters to support his views on a hot-button education policy issue.

They spent nearly $7 million on television ads promoting Williams. In response, unions and other community groups, who opposed Williams’s education platform, coalesced around another candidate, Jim Kenney. One of the groups, Action United, organized a march in front of SIG’s offices with placards that said, “Stop billionaires from buying our next mayor!”

“I would have looked seriously at Williams if not for the money,” said JoAnn Seaver, 85, a retired teacher who voted for Kenney. She was one of several Philadelphia voters Reuters interviewed on election day who said Williams’ billionaire backers were a turnoff. “You don’t think that money should govern people who are elected, but what do you do, just let the billionaires take over?”

A spokesman for Williams declined to comment. Through a spokesman, the three billionaires declined to comment.

Crowdpac, an online political fundraising platform that works like Kickstarter – an online tool that lets entrepreneurs gather funding for new projects through small donations – sees fighting billionaires as part of its business model. Mason Harrison, the site’s political director, says Crowdpac wants to get more middle-class people involved in politics by hosting smaller donation drives for candidates.

“We have a lack of money from small donors in American politics, and if we have more people involved in the political process we can make great strides in terms of diluting the influence from special interests,” he said.

A veteran of Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, Harrison is not the typical liberal voice decrying money in politics. But Crowdpac’s Twitter tagline sounds very similar to the calls from non-profit watchdog groups to level the political playing field. It reads: “Together we can beat the big donors.”


Inefficiency could also dampen the effects of billionaires’ political spending. (Graphic:

“When you have political amateurs or novices with a strong issue or ideological position in which they have intense belief and are willing to put their money behind it, the money itself is no guarantee of victory,” said Michael Traugott, a political science professor at the University of Michigan who studies the influence of money on political races.

Studies of the 2012 and 2014 elections by the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based non-profit that tracks political spending, show most groups backed by billionaires had less success swaying election outcomes than groups controlled by trade organizations or professional political strategists. The Sunlight study does not offer any explanation for this difference.

Former hedge fund founder Tom Steyer, who backed Democrats through his Nextgen Climate Action Committee, spent $79 million in the 2014 congressional elections, $17.9 million of which was directed toward influencing specific races. Sunlight found Steyer had a 32 percent success rate on the $17.9 million spent.

For some, failure was total. Evidence from news reports shows that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson spent more than $100 million in 2012 in donations to trade groups, political action committees and candidates, only to watch virtually all his chosen candidates – including presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Romney – lose.

Other groups have seen more success. The Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity saw a 95 percent success rate in 2014.

But its string of victories isn’t flawless. It ran negative TV ads against Ethan Berkowitz, a candidate in this year’s mayoral race in Anchorage, Alaska. Local strategists said the ads only increased Berkowitz’s name recognition.

Jeremy Price, the state director for Americans for Prosperity in Alaska, said the ads were meant to show Berkowitz’s record on spending, highlighting an issue rather than a candidate.

Berkowitz won the race.