“America, under Bush, is a danger to the world.”
When President Bush declared the U.S. right to strike at hostile nations like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq before they or their terrorist allies strike the American homeland, he was reacting to the events of September 11 and also establishing a new foundation for America’s national security. Bush’s new foreign policy of preemption and his leadership in the war on terror have received high marks from most Americans. But billionaire philanthropist Soros is not among them. The longtime liberal is dedicated to multilateral negotiations and United Nations peacekeeping to protect U.S. national security interests. He has declared that defeating President Bush in 2004 “is the central focus of my life.” Soros insists that Bush–not Iran’s mullahs, North Korea’s Kim Il Jong, or Osama bin Laden–poses a menace to world peace, and he is opening up his personal fortune to make huge donations to liberal activist groups to defeat Bush in the upcoming presidential election. Says Soros, “I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is.” Last year Soros donated at least $15.5 million to three major liberal groups: America Coming Together (ACT), MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress. Soros’ donations come at a propitious moment for Democrats. Confronting a Bush-Cheney campaign fundraising advantage, Democrats need major infusions of “soft money” to go to groups like ACT and MoveOn.org. Though not officially Democratic Party organizations, these groups are planning to run anti-Bush ads and aggressively mobilize voters in key electoral states. They will help level the fundraising playing field this year. Soros’ donations are doubly significant because they intensify his commitment to liberal politics and policies to an unprecedented level. To be sure, Soros has given to favored causes for decades. But for the most part the Hungarian-born financier, worth an estimated $7 billion, donated overwhelmingly to overseas projects. Over the past two decades Soros and his Open Society Institute gave nearly $5 billion to promote democracy in the former Soviet bloc and advance democracy-building in Asia and Africa. During this period Soros also funded a number of controversial liberal causes in the U.S., including support for drug legalization, abolition of the death penalty, opposition to tough sentencing guidelines and alternatives to prison incarceration. In addition, Soros’ Open Society Institute funded groups advocating higher taxes, increased government spending and restrictions on property rights, opposition to Social Security reform, and hostility to Bush judicial nominees. The Open Society Institute’s tax form shows that in 2001 it gave $132 million overall to domestic and international nonprofit groups. In the 2000 election cycle, Soros gave a mere $122,000 to Democratic causes and candidates. That’s changing in 2004 as George Soros opens his wallet. Soros-Funded Groups Pool Money and Expertise In September 2003, Soros gave $10 million to America Coming Together (ACT), a unique umbrella organization of labor, environmental and women’s organizations. ACT is an increasingly important type of organization on the new McCain-Feingold campaign finance landscape. It is an IRS-designated “527” political action committee (named after a provision in the IRS tax code). A 527 group can accept unlimited contributions for spending on political advertising, voter mobilization drives and other advocacy efforts as long as it doesn’t directly coordinate its activities with a political party or candidate. ACT was set up by veteran liberal activists whose organizations represent the special interest base of the Democratic Party. Of perhaps even greater importance than ACT is MoveOn.org, which received $2.5 million from Soros. The Soros Doctrine: Bush Hatred Soros opposes almost all of the Bush Administration’s conservative domestic policy agenda, from cutting taxes to privatizing social security. But it is the President’s post-9/11 foreign policy that arouses Soros’ antipathy. Soros says he wakes up at 3:00 a.m. with thoughts shaking him “like an alarm clock” over Bush. Soros, who grew up in Hungary under Nazi and Soviet occupation, explicitly compares the President to the Nazis. “When I hear Bush say, ‘You’re either with us or against us,’ it reminds me of the Germans.” He claims such statements conjure up nightmarish memories of Nazi slogans on walls–“The enemy is Listening.” Republican Party leaders are outraged. Sen. George Allen (R-VA), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has said, “Our enemies have stooped to a new low. His comments are a disgraceful affront to all Americans.” But Soros isn’t moderating his criticism. He goes so far as to claim that Bush is cynically exploiting the 9/11 tragedy to implement a “supremacist ideology” aiming for U.S. world domination. According to Soros, the President believes only brute power matters, and law merely legitimizes political realities created by it. This, he says, is the doctrine of neoconservatism, “a crude form of social Darwinism” whose adherents “form an influential group” inside the Bush Administration. To defeat this nefarious ideology, Soros lays out what he later half-jokingly called the “Soros Doctrine.” Put simply, Soros says, “In a free and open society, people are supposed to decide for themselves what they mean by freedom and democracy, and not simply follow America’s lead.” He says it is “ironic that the government of the most successful open society in the world” has fallen into the hands of Bush and his advisors who are contemptuous of a free and open society. The Soros Doctrine is a corollary to Soros’ idea of the “Open Society,” which motivates his giving to liberal causes. An “Open Society,” he believes, recognizes that no person or nation has ultimate Truth. By contrast, Soros thinks Bush Administration officials adhere to a “Supremacist Ideology” and believe the U.S. surely must have right on its side because it is so powerful. However, the Bush preemption doctrine is doomed to fail, argues Soros, because U.S. “success depends greatly on our dominant position at the center of the global capitalist system, and we are not willing to yield it.” As American arrogance fosters poverty, frustration will breed more terrorism. Heavy-handed U.S. military measures will, in turn, create even more terrorists. What’s Driving Soros? For all his intellectual posturing, Soros seems mainly motivated by his own arrogant disdain for President Bush. According to reporter David Olive, Soros’ personal contempt for George W. Bush developed in the 1980s when both were in the Texas oil business (Toronto Star, 11/29/03). Olive writes that Bush sold his oil exploration firm Spectrum 7 to Harken Energy in 1986, allegedly because Harken wanted to own a firm run by the then-Vice President’s son. But Harken was partially owned by Soros who thought the Spectrum 7 deal was a waste of money. In a 2002 interview with left-wing reporter David Corn, Soros claimed, “Bush was supposed to bring in the [Persian Gulf] connection. But it didn’t come to anything. We were buying political influence. That was it. [Bush] was not much of a businessman.” In other words, Soros concludes that Bush was a failed hustler who couldn’t be counted on to peddle influence for Soros. So why should he be leader of the free world? While Soros may think President Bush is a failed hustler, the government of France thinks Soros is a successful one. In December 2002, a French court found Soros guilty of insider trading, fourteen years after the fact, and fined him 2.2 million euros ($2.3 million). Prosecutors said that in 1988 Soros, acting on inside knowledge about a pending takeover, illegally bought 160,000 shares in the French bank Societe Generale, and then sold them for a $2.28 million profit. Soros’ international business reputation has never been sterling. Indeed, when Asian economies collapsed in the late 1990s, Soros’ currency speculation was blamed by many in the region. Wrote one reporter in Malaysia’s Business Times, “Mr. George Soros thinks he is promoting freedom with his crusade for ‘democracy’ but what he is doing sometimes is dispensing sorrow to those who are at the receiving end of his non-democratic attacks on currencies.” No matter how Soros has attained wealth, he’s now decided he should use it to become a political kingmaker. As historian Douglas Brinkley explained to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly (11/18/03): “Soros is just somebody who has not just a lot of money but also has a large ego, andâ€¦ wants to be seen as somebody who not justâ€¦ousts President Bush, but becomes a kind of savior of a new progressive America.” Democrats Agree and Disagree with Soros Accusing the President of exploiting 9/11 for political gain is standard rhetoric on the fringe Left. But Soros’ visceral loathing is shared by many Democratic Party activists and demonstrates their deep partisan anger at Bush. Veteran Democratic politicians are surprised at the depth of Bush hatred. Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.), stunned by the anti-Bush feeling, said, “I’ve had really intelligent people say, ‘As soon as he gets on TV, I turn it off. I just can’t stand him.'” Democratic activists won’t publicly endorse Soros’ most outrageous statements. But one Democrat would not disavow Soros’ comparison of Bush to the Nazis: “I’m not sure I disagree with him. I’m not going to second-guess someone like Soros who has lived through the Holocaust.” That unnamed individual is a beneficiary of Soros’ largesse. Still, Soros’ rhetoric has angered some liberals who denounced his November 2003 address to the Jewish Funders Network. Soros told the philanthropists group, “There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush Administration and the Sharon Administration contribute to that.” Calling the remarks “ridiculous and outrageous” and “morally reprehensible,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) demanded that Democrats not give Soros’ statements a pass just because he is a generous donor. “I don’t think people should kiss up to him just because he wants to give money,” said Engel. As a Jew who lived through the Holocaust, Soros should appreciate the importance of Israeli security concerns, said Engel. But a New York Daily News editorial called Soros “a man who lacks even a remotely balanced view of history and the nature of evil. He has demeaned the Holocaust and placed moral responsibility for anti-Semitism on its victims rather than its perpetrators.” Campaign Finance Hypocrisy Over the last seven years, Soros has given about $18 million to groups working to change campaign finance rules so that large contributions are removed from the political process. The McCain-Feingold law is supposed to ban large “soft money” contributions to political parties from corporations, labor unions and individuals. But does it apply to George Soros? Soros’ multi-million dollar donations to liberal 527 groups like ACT and the MoveOn.org Voter Fund undercut the purpose of campaign finance reform and Soros’ own generous giving to reform groups. Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity says Soros’ contributions are legal but violate the spirit of campaign finance. America Coming Together Soros’ bold foray into political activism began in the summer of 2003 when he announced his first major donation to America Coming Together (ACT). With the help of Mort Halperin, former State Department director of policy planning in the Clinton Administration, Soros organized a meeting of Democratic strategists at his house in Southampton, Long Island. Participants included former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope, former AFL-CIO political director Steve Rosenthal and Emily’s List president Ellen Malcolm. ACT had just been set up by Rosenthal and Malcolm, who are the group’s CEO and president. The grim purpose of the liberal summit–the 2004 elections–brightened considerably when Soros took aside Rosenthal and Malcolm to tell them he would donate $10 million to ACT. Soros’ donation is the largest single political contribution from an individual in history. Soros’ huge donation to ACT became a catalyst for more donations. The morning after the announcement, Peter Lewis, chairman of the Progressive Insurance Corp., pledged $10 million to ACT; Rob Glaser, founder and CEO of RealNetworks, promised $2 million; Rob McKay, president of the McKay Family Foundation donated $1 million; and Lewis and Dorothy Cullman pledged $500,000. Thanks to Soros and his wealthy network, ACT raised $23.5 million in 24 hours. ACT Helps Offset Bush Fundraising Advantage Much is made of the Bush campaign’s fundraising advantage. The Bush-Cheney re-election campaign is expected to break all fundraising records and meet its $200 million target, about double its 2000 total. But liberal activist groups counter that “hard money” advantage with their own success at raising “soft money.” Left-leaning groups may raise as much as $420 million in unregulated contributions for the 2004 election, according to Project for America, a 501(c)(4) with close ties to the White House. America Votes, the group whose president, Cecile Richards, is also on the ACT executive committee, plans to spend $250 million, including the $75 million from ACT and $52 million from the AFL-CIO. The liberal “soft money” advantage is especially apparent in the area of 527 spending. In the 2002 election cycle, the Center for Public Integrity found that Democratic-affiliated 527s spent $185 million in soft money; Republican-affiliated groups spent $82 million. The center also found that, between August 2000 and the summer of 2003, nine of the top ten soft money organizations were Democratic-affiliated. In other words, the soft money advantage bails out the Democratic Party in any fundraising duel with the GOP, which holds a big lead in party-based fundraising.