Al Gore Is Good at Rent-Seeking

Al Gore Is Good at Rent-Seeking. By Holman Jenkins.

As far as we can tell, Al Gore has managed to amass a Romneyesque fortune without ever satisfying a customer.

The closest thing to an exception may be his board membership at Apple, where Mr. Gore earned his keep by leading the board inquest that exonerated Steve Jobs of any options-backdating peccadilloes. Doing so was unquestionably a service to Apple shareholders.

But, otherwise, his environmental investments have prospered thanks to government handouts and mandates.

Al Gore at The World Economic Forum, 2008

His Current TV, in the process of being sold to Al-Jazeera, attracted a minuscule audience in its seven-year existence. It averaged just 42,000 viewers per evening last year. Yet the payday coming to Mr. Gore will be somewhat greater than zero — $70 million to $100 million, depending on which estimate you prefer.

We never subscribed to the theory regarding success in life that “It’s not what you know but who you know.” We may have to rethink.

What Current had going for it was Mr. Gore, who would drop in on media moguls and explain why it was in their political interest to put Current on their networks and dun subscribers five or 10 cents a month for a channel they never watch. Saying no just wasn’t worth it to companies that must run a daily gauntlet of Democratic regulators in Washington. Not to oblige Mr. Gore would be to face, at every congressional hearing, the likelihood of some legislator lambasting them for “censoring” a progressive voice.

So the industry became habituated to transferring $100 million a year in what might otherwise be its own profits to owners of a cable channel nobody watched. These carriage agreements were Current TV’s sole valuable assets.

Moved on from the climate hustle.