Is Facebook Billionaire Chris Hughes Buying His Husband A Seat In Congress?

sean eldridgeSean Eldridge, the husband of young business magnate Chris Hughes, would like to be the Democratic Congressman from the 19th district in New York. But an unflattering new profile on Politico presents Eldridge as a cross between a carpetbagger and a cipher who is spending a vast amount of his husband’s money to secure his political future.

Eldridge, 27, is undeniably ambitious. His roots in the financially depressed district where he has chosen to run date back only to 2011, when he and Hughes spent $1.9 million to buy a house in the Hudson River valley. (They moved north one Congressional district when the first one didn’t pan out.)

Eldridge then started a venture capital firm, Hudson River Ventures, that has made millions in loans and equity lines available to local companies. Whatever the motive behind the venture capital investments, the move at least gives the appearance of attempting to curry local favor with cash. It doesn’t help that there’s a lot of overlap of between the venture capital firm and the campaign. (According to the story, Hughes, who owns and operates the liberal New Republic magazine, does not participate in campaign strategy.)

And cash is the language of Eldridge’s campaign. He has spent $700,000 to date and is promising to match contributions dollar for dollar. Eldridge is on track to make his race one of the most expensive this year, thanks to the couple’s enormous wealth. Eldridge, who was born in Canada, is the son of two physicians. While he had a comfortable upbringing, he was not to the manor born. He met Hughes while at Harvard, where Hughes became one of the founders of Facebook with fellow student Mark Zuckerberg. The outgoing Eldridge and the more introverted Hughes make a glamorous young couple who have the means, charisma and savvy to influence national politics for years to come.

Eldridge’s Republican opponent, Chris Gibson, grew up in the district and lives in the house where he was raised. He is in the bottom fifth of wealth for members of Congress, with savings between $100,000 and $250,000. Gibson, a former college professor, served 24 years in the military and was wounded on one of his four tours of duty in Iraq.

Unsurprisingly, Gibson doesn’t have a lot of good to say about Eldridge. “This is about him and his political aspirations, and I think that’s going to be a problem for him. He married well, he married into money,” Gibson told Politico. “But there are some things money can’t buy.” Gibson is moderate by the extreme Republican standards of today (he co-sponsored ENDA, but only supports civil unions).

However, in the Politico story, it’s not just Gibson who complains about Eldridge. Shayne Gallo, the Democratic mayor of Kingston, the largest city in the district, said that he has yet to meet Eldridge, although he did get an email request from his campaign for an endorsement.

“I was extremely surprised, and I was offended,” he said. “I would think it would be prudent … if not politically polite and respectful, to reach out to those who’ve gone through this process and who are local yokels and who are stakeholders in the community you hope to represent.”

In fact, Eldridge has kept a low profile with local media as well. His campaign schedule is usually not shared with local reporters, and Eldridge declined to be interviewed by Politico for the profile. By contrast, Eldridge was an active media presence when he worked on the campaign for marriage equality in New York.

Alan Chartock, a liberal talk radio host who interviewed candidate Eldridge, said “he’s right on all the issues, but what I think people are looking for is a person. He’s extremely bright, has all the assets that you need to run. But it’s cookie cutter.”

Eldridge wouldn’t be the first candidate to take advantage of personal wealth to run for office. Many of the 50 wealthiest members of Congress owe their money to their marriages or families. It’s a club that crosses party lines. And by all appearances, Eldridge has what it takes to be a great leader one day, given time and experience.

The question the Politico story raises is different. It’s not just about money. It’s about political gravitas. That’s the quality that Eldridge will have to demonstrate to voters if he wants to earn their votes and not just buy them.


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  • Cam

    Two quick things,

    1. He is giving loans to local businesses, so for whatever reason at least the district is getting SOME benefit from him being there, unlike districts that have people like Boehner as their reps.

    2. Have you ever seen the amount of money people like John McCain and Mitch McConnell have gotten from their wives? Half of Congress was bankrolled the same way.

  • Jake357

    Can you say ‘career politician’? This man isn’t looking to serve the interests of his community, he’s looking to advance his career. I mean, he didn’t even meet with a major local politico before asking for an endorsement in an email? I don’t support that, regardless of who he is. It’s the same reason I have qualms with Hillary Clinton: she’s careerist in the worst sense. Her ambition is power and influence and she has done everything possible to put herself in its path.

  • Cy

    Buying positions in American government is what American politicians do. Your Supreme Court just declared that their right by removing limits on political contributions.

  • BJ McFrisky

    Democrats buying their way into office?
    Oh. No. Say. It. Ain’t. So.

  • Cam

    @BJ McFrisky:

    BJ, see, this is why nobody listens to you, your agenda is so all encompassing that you can’t have a rational discussion.

    Pretty much all of congress has bought their way in, including the two I mentioned with money from their wives (McCain and McCaonnell) the fact that you try to pretend it’s all Democrats just makes you seem ignorant of reality or purposely lying.

    But then again, any chance you have to defend right wing anti-gay folks you’ll take it.

    Now quickly! have one of your OTHER screenames come on and attack me! lol

  • twoguysbrooklyn

    We live in this district now. I agree that Mr. Eldridge’s approach to getting a Congressional seat is a bit unseemly, but the Republican incumbent votes with the Republican House leaders 85% of the time. In a Democrat-leaning county, that’s just not acceptable since the Republican House is insanely anti-New York. My vote is with Eldridge but he’ll have a tough time unseating the incumbent I’m afraid.

  • BJ McFrisky

    @Cam: Jesus, enough with the duplicate screen name accusations. Just because you’re a petty and scheming liberazzi doesn’t mean other people behave the same. I have no reason to comment under any name other than my own, so be careful with the false accusations, because the tables can always be turned.
    If, as they used to say, paranoia will destroy ya, then you’re obviously on the fast-track to destruction. Happy trails.

  • Cam

    @BJ McFrisky:

    Oh, and BJ two quick things.

    1. Notice how you didn’t respond to my actual statement? See, that is what you always do, you try to make a comment and when somebody shows how it is incorrect, you freak out and try to deflect.

    2. You have said multiple times that you would never respond to me again. But I guess I’m so attractive you just can’t resist me. Oh wait, it’s because you get furious at anybody who points out your continuing unwavering support of anybody who is an anti-gay bigot.

  • Tackle

    This stinks. (Buying in election) and carpet bagging. But what else is new? It’s common practice. However if it’s too obvious it can backfire and blow up in ones face. Remember billionaire
    Meg Witeman running for Governor of California?

  • sportyguy1983

    No one can “buy” an election. You have lazy voters who don’t do their own research and are too lazy.

  • Tackle

    One can BUY an election through
    Air time/ radio time
    Volume of posting/ posters
    Number of manpower
    Callers and foot soldiers
    And this list can go on and on
    Wealth gives you a great advantage.

  • sportyguy1983

    Do your research. In the last election cycle, the VAST majority of millionaires funding the majority of their campaigns LOST!!!

  • Tackle

    And I’m not saying that every millionaire or billionaire who tries to buy an election will be successful. I already gave an example of
    Meg Witeman. Yes many have both lost and won.
    Research done…

  • Cam

    Heck, why bother to make political donations when you can just pay for your husband to be in Congress?

  • Bromancer7

    As someone who (unfortunately) lives in the Hudson Valley I’d take Eldridge over Gibson any day. Gibson sides with the Tea Party on nearly every issue, and has continually voted against gays, minorities, women, the unemployed, and the poor. He is 100% in the pocket of big business.

    And how is Eldridge being backed by his husband any different than Romney bankrolling his own campaign using money earned from destroying companies resulting in laying off of millions of American workers, or any other Republican being bankrolled by their wealthy wife or the Koch brothers?

  • Apparatus

    Of course he is, and it feels…icky. Of course all politicians are ambitious and have huge egos, you kind of have to be both in order to put yourself out there as a leader of men, but there’s something about this kind of blind red hot ambition that gives us pause. Pursuit of power just for the sake of power when you’re already filthy rich, young, and could probably have a lot more influence from the outside than a lowly congressman, gives us pause. I’m saying this as a life long democrat and liberal voter before you chime in attack dogs. I’d be saying the same thing if some right wing billionaire was trying to buy himself into politics like so many have tried to before. Also, as a voter, there’s nothing in the world he could do to convince me that he really wanted to keep this job, and didn’t want to just use it as a stepping stone to something bigger ASAP.

  • wollam11

    Headline: Is Facebook Billionaire Chris Hughes Buying His Husband A Seat In Congress?

    A: Did Cindy McCain or Theresa Heinz buy their husbands their seat?

  • barkomatic

    Politics is dirty business and one often has to pick the lesser of unseemly choices. In this case, I would vote for Eldridge if I lived in that district, despite the face that his husband is purchasing his seat. Hopefully, he won’t turn out to be one of the “corporate” Democrats that have become somewhat common.

  • admod

    Straight men have bought their wives seats in political offices, they have bought themselves offices, and they have allowed their wives to buy offices for them too- so why shouldn’t a gay man be given the same benefits of buying his way into office!?!? Just because someone is gay doesn’t mean that they are any better or any worse than someone else. We are on the march to equality and with that comes the good and the badside- we see that straight politicians use their money to get into high ranking places, now we get to see the gay world publically do the same thing, just to rub the rich, right wing, CONservative noses in the fact that we are even more fabulous than they are and that we are going to be in public offices to stop them at that level from being all stupid instead of just out on the streets leading the protest.

  • Cam


    McCain did, I think that Kerry was already in Congress when he married Theresea Heinz.

  • queerbec

    Mr. Eldridge needs to start acting like a candidate if he expects to win. Although he may think it is beneath him to knock on doors, attend barbecues, make himself accessible to the media, and meet other politicians, that’s as much a part of the game as raising gobs of money and dealing dirt on your opposition. Voters are looking to meet a sincere person who indicates an empathy and understanding for their concerns. That is where legitimate criticism can be leveled at Mr. Eldridge and should. He’s got to be high profile. I hope he has hired a good campaign manager. (There also seems to be a concern among some members of the LGBT community that “our” so-called candidates have to be held to a much higher ethical and human standard than even supportive non-LGBT candidates. That won’t necessarily work, however, all the time so we need to cut them some slack). Mr. Eldridge should not takes the LGBT vote from his district for granted, either. If he upsets that community, while they might not vote for a Republican, they could always stay home which in a tight race could be a vote for the opposition.

  • Cam


    Reminds me of when Caroline Kennedy thought that a phone call to the governor should get her a Senate Seat free and clear and that talking to the press was beneath her.

  • jwrappaport

    All this shows is that we too can be shameless opportunists and carpetbaggers just like straights. What possible connection could this guy have with District 19? How could he presume to understand the people whose voice he wants to carry to the national stage?

    This is what is wrong with politics, and this is why, I’m sorry to say, I would vote against him if he suddenly dropped anchor in my neck of the woods. What a sham.

  • Alan down in Florida

    How is what he is doing any different than Scott Brown crossing the border to run for the Senate in New Hampshire after proving he couldn’t get elected again in Massachusetts.

  • tomron

    @jwrappaport: And if you did vote against him, I’m sorry to say, you’d be doing yourself and the entire gay/liberal/Democratic Party a great disservice. I watched Mr. Eldridge operate as the spokesman for Freedom to Marry, and he was brilliant! Why are we harping on the fact that he has a great deal of money (unless we’re jealous), when we should be considering the following:
    1. He’s articulate, handsome (that does get votes), a Democrat, and would be a terrific representative.
    2. Why would any sensible Democrat waste a vote when that vote could be instrumental in either getting rid of the Beohner cabal, or at least cutting their margin?
    3. With his husband’s money, he could do anything he wants from doing nothing but wallowing in the lap of luxury to any other kind of endeavor that he’s interested in.
    4. And finally, even if his opponent is considered a “liberal Republican” (which these days translates to not being a Tea Party nut job), he is still a Republican who votes with the rest of his party.
    If Mr. Eldridge is making mistakes in the way he’s running his campaign, that has nothing to do with his suitability to being a great Democratic representative.

  • denvermtnbiker

    Why didn’t Queerty write an article about carpetbagging when Hillary Clinton ran for NY Senate after living there less time than Eldridge? Or about John Kerry who ran on his wife’s inherited wealth?

  • Kieran

    “Buying a seat” in the US Congress—-with MONEY? Preposterous and absurd! Whoever heard of such a thing happening in America.

  • hephaestion

    I happened to meet these guys last summer and I was very impressed by them. They are very sincere, nice guys. And the community in the 19th district seems to like them just fine. It’s an amazingly un-homophobic area for a rural/small town region, and nobody I spoke to considered them outsiders. The people there seem to welcome anyone who will try to lift up the area economically. I wish them well.

  • Ryan26pdx

    So Hughes and Eldridge are pretty much just furthering the similarities between straight and gay couples. People with political aspirations have been benefiting from their spouses’ fortunes for thousands of years now.

  • SteveDenver

    So Queerty: What of his politics; do we know anything about his stances on important topics, or is this just an opportunity to slam a gay politician?

  • DCNimbus

    @Cam: To your second point- McCain and McConnell are both FROM the districts they are representing- aside from the money. And yes, while it is legally permissible to move to a district for the sole purpose of using it as a stepping stone to higher office, spent a million dolllars- it doesn’t mean the voters will go for it. If I were in this district, I don’t care how many ads, flyers or fundraisers this carpetbagger dropped on me- I would walk into the voting booth and give great deference to the candidate who lived there all his or her life,shows he is up tot he task and that he has the true interests of everyone in the district at heart. Gay, bi or straight- this guy seems slimy….

  • Ben Dover

    Is there something uniquely backward about these Hudson River folks, that only a native troglodyte can understand and represent them?

    We’re not in the 19th century anymore, and most rural districts could probably benefit from an outsider perspective. Now that he’s ridden into the valley on a donkey cart and set up his internet connection, I’m guessing he can figure out the area pretty quickly.

    Actually most rural districts in the 19th century benefitted from outsider perspectives also. There’s nothing inherently bad about “carpetbagging,” per se, but the pejorative term was invented by southern whites who were resentful about losing the war and about blacks voting. Some here seem to have forgotten their high school history.

    The Facebook connection seems way more “icky” to me than the carpetbagging!

  • DistingueTraces


    he has the benefit of all his husband’s money, but he has the disadvantage of all his husband’s competitors and rivals in online journalism.

    The latter seems to be making itself felt pretty strongly this week.

  • Dc

    I live in the district and I had the opportunity to hear Eldridge speak at a political friend-raiser at a home in Kingston. He is polished, eloquent and focused on winning. True, he has the advantage of a great deal of money. I got the feeling that although it might take him a little longer, he’d earn as much on his own based on his drive and determination. I will vote for him.

    That being said, I think it is going to be an uphill battle for Eldridge for the very reasons outlined in the article–an article that was quite biased, especially the image of the house and swimming pool accompanying the article. I am surprised Gibson wasn’t shown posed in front of an American flag along with an inset photo of his shrapnel wound. Nevertheless, Eldridge will have to address and overcome the perceptions that are discussed. If, in the end, he is unsuccessful in his bid, he should consider running for something a little less powerful than US Assembly right out of the gate. He’d make a great mayor of Kingston, for example, and certainly he’d be more effective than the current one. Of course, Eldridge would have to establish residency in the city, and he would have to show up to work everyday. People–by which I mean Ulster county natives who are primarily blue collar/rural — may not understand why voting for Eldridge is in their best interest over Gibson. They do, however, understand showing up for work everyday.

    I suppose it is likely that he is using the position as a stepping stone to greater and more powerful positions, but that doesn’t mean the constituency can’t benefit from that strategy. In order to get the more powerful position he will need to make tangible contributions in whatever position he finds himself. Hopefully, that will be as our congressman. Gibson may care deeply, but he is just a soldier in the republican hegemony. Eldridge is a leader, and any progressive and forward-thinking community would benefit from his work on their behalf.

  • jwrappaport

    @tomron: I’m not disputing that he’s smart or has good ideas – or even that he would do a good job in Congress. That’s not really the point. My issue is that there is something fundamentally wrong with going to a place about which you know essentially nothing and then undertaking an expensive and slick campaign to convince a community you don’t know that you’re the right man to speak for them in the national legislature. What does he know about the local issues affecting District 19? How much time has he spent serving that community?

    A major point of the Connecticut Compromise (i.e., having two houses of Congress) was to have a lower house that was locally accountable and that could bring local voices to the national stage. Allowing these seats to be so fungible basically allows the rich to jet around, buy property in any congressional district, and then outspend every local shmoe two-to-one and buy one election after another. What results is a plutocracy in which the wealthy rule all the rest of us who can’t afford to buy elections or large estates in other districts. It takes the power out of the hands of ordinary people and reserves it for the elites.

    It’s the disingenuousness of it that I find distasteful. I have no illusions that this isn’t regularly done, but it doesn’t make it right. It also doesn’t make it right that he likely shares many of my political beliefs and is also one good looking fellow. It undermines the very idea of representative democracy, and we should call it out when our side does it just as we should when the right does it.

  • arthurb3

    So ?

  • Blackceo


    If you are going to try and throw shade at least have your facts accurate. John Kerry began in the Senate in 1985. He didn’t marry Teresa Heinz until 1995.

  • charwegl

    @Bromancer7: That’s not factual. Gibson is well know for being a very moderate Republican. He has sponsored ENDA (which has many provisions I myself disagree with but that’s for another time). He supports civil unions and has even stated that he could not rule out voting for full on marriage rights for LGBT couples, which is more than most of the Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have said.

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