The New York Times headline is enticing and perhaps even a little bit ominous — “Neil Gorsuch Has Web of Ties to Secretive Billionaire.” It conjures up images of backroom deals, favor-trading, and shadowy, rich figures manipulating the law from oak-panelled rooms. Is the esteemed Judge Gorsuch a mere puppet?
Who’s the puppeteer? Well, it turns out that it’s Philip Anschutz, a billionaire so “secretive” that he owns the Weekly Standard and Washington Examiner. He’s so reclusive that he made possible such quiet little films like the Chronicles of Narnia series, Holes, and Charlotte’s Web (is that the “web” that ensnared Gorsuch?) He owns stakes in small-time sports teams like, umm, the Los Angeles Lakers and in cozy little venues like the Staples Center. My last posting in the Army Reserve was right next to the sprawling Anschutz Medical Campus, a place his family funded with a miserly $91 million gift. So, yeah, nobody knows the guy.
Why is he “secretive” then? Well, unlike some rich men, he doesn’t seem to seek out press coverage. Like most Americans, he values his privacy. His work is public. His private life is private.