The Washington Post

Sean Eldridge teaches a master class in how to fuel a negative story

Usually, first time candidates for political office will take all the media attention they can get. But in the case of young and fabulously wealthy activist turned Democratic candidate for New York’s 19th Congressional District Sean Eldridge, those rules don’t apply.


Sean Eldridge, president of Hudson River Ventures, left, and Chris Hughes, editor-in-chief and publisher of The New Republic and a founder of Facebook Inc., stand for a photograph during the Paris Review Spring Revel gala in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, April 3, 2012. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Eldridge apparently was nowhere to be found when Politico reporter Alex Isenstadt went to upstate New York searching for a story and the candidate. Eldridge is perhaps best known for his role in pushing same-sex marriage in New York State and for being the husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. And Eldridge is also cloistered by his well-paid advisors, Isenstadt contends in a new video posted on Politico hours before the publication of his profile of the race.

According to Isenstadt, when he came calling at Eldridge’s campaign office and business address, no one answered. The campaign “didn’t like the direction the story was going in,” Isenstadt explains. “I tried pretty hard and it was sort of like running into a wall. I was literally locked out.”

The video was posted hours before Isenstadt's profile of the 19th District race landed on Politico's site, sending a one-two-punch of negative publicity Eldridge's way. (Would the candidate's cooperation have made the piece a little nicer to Eldridge, Politico executive editor Rick Berke asks Isenstadt? "Maybe, yes..." Isenstadt said.)

But when a local reporter called to get to the bottom of the spat, Eldridge suddenly appeared. In fact, Eldridge made a point to be so accessible that he personally called Hudson Valley blogger James Nani to respond to the Politico video. And there’s more: a phone interview wouldn't suffice. Eldridge invited Nani to his campaign office in Kingston to for a sit down interview.

“We’re not really concerned with a D.C.-based blog,” Eldridge told Nani. “We haven’t been focused on Politico,” Eldridge added.

Eldridge is 27, politically connected, and wealthy enough to buy two multi-million dollar homes in his search for the perfect Congressional district to run in. Eldridge and Hughes spent $5 million on a massive estate in New York’s 18th District and put out feelers for a Congressional run. When the path seemed too rocky, the couple bought again, this time a $3 million property in the 19th District, where he hopes to take on Republican incumbent Chris Gibson.

Money, it seems, was the main reason for the missed connection between Isenstadt and Eldridge’s campaign. Isenstadt admits that he had hoped to ask some questions about an investment firm founded by Eldridge, Hudson River Ventures, which has invested hundreds of thousands in the region since 2011, when Eldridge first started mulling a Congressional run.

Conveniently, those investments have been a centerpiece of Eldridge’s campaign — featured prominently in the kickoff video posted on the campaign Web site.

And New York Republicans have accused Eldridge of receiving illegal in-kind campaign contributions from the company.

The Eldridge campaign did not return our request for comment. But so far the “D.C.-based” blog that Eldridge dismissed is driving a pretty unfavorable conversation right now. Here's a sampling of the ribbing via Twitter:

 

Abby Phillip is a national political reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip

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