Democrat mega-fundraiser for Kamala Harris involved in new media startup ‘Punchbowl’

The man who led the initial $1 million investment round for a new political media startup is a long-time Democratic Party activist and bundler for Joe Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris.

Punchbowl — the Secret Service’s nickname for the U.S. Capitol — is a pricey subscription-based offering that was featured in The New York Times’ online edition Sunday evening. And while its founders, now-former Politico reporters Jake Sherman, Anna Palmer, and John Bresnahan, claim their outlet will be a “scoop-driven, just-the-facts-ma’am” operation, according to The Times, media fundraiser Aryeh Bourkoff is hardly a nonpartisan figure, Fox News noted.

Rachel Schindler, another co-founder, left the news operation at Facebook to join the team.

Writing in The Times, Ben Smith set the tone for Punchbowl: “The big debates over political journalism in the Trump years were about morality. What began with arguments over whether the media should call something a ‘lie’ or ‘racist’ has now become: How do you cover a Republican Party that votes to overturn an election?”

In an interview with Smith, Sherman further clarified the direction Punchbowl is going to take regarding its coverage of politics.

“There is a segment of the world that thinks Mitch McConnell is the devil and just wants to read nasty stuff about Mitch McConnell all day long,” he said. “But there is a massive segment of the world who wants to understand what Mitch McConnell does and why he’s doing it.”

As for Bourkoff, Smith wrote that he “is a Democrat and longtime fundraiser for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.” He also said Bourkoff is “close” to presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, but the media fundraiser’s spokeswoman did not want that put into the story.

On its website, Punchbowl — which will produce podcasts for subscribers ($30/month or $300 annually) as well as three daily newsletters, one of which will be free — says its credo will be “Power, People, Politics,” while pledging to “focus relentlessly on the people in Washington who make decisions, and on the news and events that will move political markets.”

But the site’s focus on ‘explaining’ the GOP and its actions will no doubt lead many to conclude that Punchbowl will just be another left-leaning media offering — a view that Smith appears to substantiate.

“Then there’s the question of how to cover the Republican Party, many of whose top figures have indicated they will vote to reject the results of the presidential election,” he wrote in the Times. “Is this a political party responding to its constituents, and should be covered as such? Or should reporters spend most of their time treating the House minority as a toxic anti-democratic sect?”

That said, Punchbowl’s newsletters and other content will reportedly focus on breaking news as well as providing context on “market-moving political events,” “insights into Washington’s most powerful leaders,” and “exclusive community events,” the site noted.

“They’re shooting for a high annual subscription rate, $300, and aiming their newsletter at people for whom politics is a profession or at least a real obsession,” Smith added.

The outlet sent out its first dispatch Sunday evening. It is the latest to be spun off by veterans of Politico, which was launched in 2007 “to cover politics with the speed of the internet and the glee of ‘SportsCenter,'” Smith wrote.

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Jon Dougherty


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