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Barbarians at the Gates

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Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Robin Hood
Theodore Schleifer
April 2, 2024

It’s rare that the heir to one of the world’s most spectacular fortunes should also be a 24-year-old Capitol Hill staffer, laboring in the bowels of some dreary congressional office building. Alas, for Rory Gates, anonymity was never an option. From the moment he arrived in Washington to begin his doctorate, in 2022, the bookish son of Bill and Melinda Gates has been a rich target for Democratic social-climbers, influence-peddlers, and all variety of money chasers who view him not only as a next-generation megadonor and Washington player, but also as their next potential payday. 

The widespread fascination with someone born in 1999 speaks to the sorry state of Democratic megadonor-dom in 2024. There are virtually no new major givers to progressive causes, at least relative to 2020 or 2016. Sure, there are hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into the Biden campaign and Democratic causes this cycle. But the top of the fundraising pyramid has been eroding over the last few years, sending ripples of concern (and even some layoffs) through the progressive movement. That’s why, whenever I ask sources who’s hot in donor circles, there is only one answer: Have you met Rory?