The Stylishness of Democrats Courting Young Multi-Billionaires

A glowing account from the New York Times as kids of the mega-rich visit the White House
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There are Americans so wealthy that their children stand to inherit billions of dollars. Think of those kids and their power. Now imagine if the Obama Administration invited them to the White House: 100 fantastically rich heirs to massive fortunes. That would be news, right? 

Sure enough, the New York Times covered it. What I find bizarre are the decisions the newspaper made in its coverage. The article appeared in the Style Section, on page 8. Its headline: "Including the Young and the Rich." Here's how it begins:

On a crisp morning in late March, an elite group of 100 young philanthropists and heirs to billionaire family fortunes filed into a cozy auditorium at the White House.

Their name tags read like a catalog of the country’s wealthiest and most influential clans: Rockefeller, Pritzker, Marriott. They were there for a discreet, invitation-only summit hosted by the Obama administration to find common ground between the public sector and the so-called next-generation philanthropists, many of whom stand to inherit billions in private wealth.

“Moon shots!” one administration official said, kicking off the day on an inspirational note to embrace the White House as a partner and catalyst for putting their personal idealism into practice.

The well-heeled group seemed receptive.

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Patrick Gage, a 19-year-old heir to the multibillion-dollar Carlson hotel and hospitality fortune. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” Mr. Gage, physically boyish with naturally swooping Bieber bangs, wore a conservative pinstripe suit and a white oxford shirt. His family’s Carlson company, which owns Radisson hotels, Country Inns and Suites, T.G.I. Friday’s and other brands, is an industry leader in enforcing measures to combat trafficking and involuntary prostitution.

A freshman at Georgetown University, Mr. Gage was among the presenters at a breakout session, titled “Combating Human Trafficking,” that attracted a notable group of his peers. “The person two seats away from me was a Marriott,“ he said. “And when I told her about trafficking, right away she was like, ‘Uh, yeah, I want to do that.’ ”

Justin McAuliffe, a 24-year-old heir to the Hilton hotel fortune, was similarly impressed by the crowd. “Hilton, Marriott and Carlson,” he said. “That is cool.”

By golly. If only we'd have thought to connect multi-billionaires to one another and to political elites before, we'd probably have already beat human trafficking. How selfless of everyone involved to take time out of their schedules for networking that will redound to the benefit of sex slaves more than anything else.

Subtract the sarcasm from the last paragraph and you have the overall approach to this article:

The daylong conference was organized by Thomas Kalil, a deputy director for technology and innovation in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, with the help of Nexus, a youth organization based in Washington that seeks to “catalyze” the next generation of billionaire philanthropists and other stakeholders.

Mr. Kalil moved nimbly among the affluent participants and through the ornate halls of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the summit was held. “A lot of this is not just, you know, collaborations between the administration and philanthropists,” he said, “but philanthropists finding each other, finding other philanthropists with shared interests.”

Hope. Change. And helping heirs to billion-dollar fortunes to find one another, and one another's shared interests, on federal property. I don't mean to imply that the heirs who attended behaved nefariously, or that I don't understand why the Democratic Party would want to court them. What galls me is a newspaper treating this great meeting of power as if there are no mercenary motives or problematic consequences.  

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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