From left, Stanley Sheinbaum; then-presidential candidate Gary Hart; Sen. George McGovern; fellow Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale; and actor Warren Beatty join hands at a 1984 fundraiser in Los Angeles. (Liu Heung Shing / AP)

Stanley Sheinbaum, the teacher, activist and “liberal lion” of Los Angeles who said “helping to keep a liberal voice alive” was the enduring goal of his lifetime of activism, died at age 96 Monday at his home in L.A.’s Brentwood neighborhood.

The Los Angeles Times’ Elaine Woo begins her thorough obituary of Sheinbaum:

For more than four decades, Stanley Sheinbaum regularly gathered moguls, presidents, celebrities and activists in his Brentwood living room to sip wine and debate the issues of the day. King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Norman Lear, Barbra Streisand and Warren Beatty were among the many famous faces who participated in the vibrant salons Sheinbaum and his wife, Betty, held at their art-filled home on exclusive Rockingham Avenue.

But more than a high-powered host, Sheinbaum often was a change agent, whose fingerprints can be found on a remarkable array of notable events.

In the 1960s he engineered the release of Andreas Papandreou, the Greek leader who had been imprisoned by a military junta. In the 1970s he was the chief fundraiser for Daniel Ellsberg’s defense in the Pentagon Papers trial. In the 1980s he led a delegation of American Jewish leaders who persuaded Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat to renounce terrorism and accept Israel as a state. And in the 1990s he headed the Los Angeles Police Commission after the beating of motorist Rodney King and helped drive controversial police Chief Daryl Gates from office.

“He’s a pot boiler,” Lear once said of his longtime friend and ally. “Something is always brewing in Stanley.” …

He often took stands that invited outrage. When he was photographed shaking hands with Arafat, fellow Jews called him a traitor and a dead pig was thrown on his driveway. When he criticized the Los Angeles Police Department, he rankled Gates, who called him “a pain in the ass.”

The Times noted that Sheinbaum collaborated with Robert Scheer, now the editor in chief of Truthdig, to expose a CIA front aimed at South Vietnam in which Sheinbaum unwittingly became involved:

In the late 1950s he was hired to teach economics at Michigan State University, which assigned him to a program providing technical assistance to South Vietnam. He became the coordinator in 1957, not knowing that the program was a front for the CIA.

When he finally learned the truth, after 18 months in the job, it radicalized him.

“I realized then the real threat was not in Vietnam but right here at home,” he told The Times many years later.

Sheinbaum resigned as coordinator in 1959 and in 1960 joined the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara as a research economist. He had remained quiet about the CIA’s links to the Michigan State program until he was contacted by journalist Robert Scheer, who had discovered the connection on his own. Sheinbaum wound up collaborating with Scheer on an article published in Ramparts magazine in 1966 that exposed the program.

The CIA launched an investigation of Ramparts and a campaign to discredit it, which quickly evolved into a broader program of domestic political espionage, according to journalist Angus Mackenzie in his 1998 book “Secrets: The CIA’s War at Home.” Mackenzie wrote that Sheinbaum was “the first person to go public with his experience of CIA activity in the United States — a story about the Agency’s infiltration of a legitimate civilian institution.”

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—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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