Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 9 News List

Beating Bush at the money game

Billionaire George Soros has contributed US$12.5 million to two activist groups that are committed to denying George W. Bush a second term

By George Soros


I and a number of other wealthy Americans are contributing millions of dollars to grass-roots organizations engaged in next year's presidential election. We are deeply concerned with the direction in which the Bush administration is taking the US and the world. If Americans reject the president's policies at the polls, the US can write off the Bush Doctrine as a temporary aberration and resume its rightful place in the world. If American voters endorse those policies, the US shall have to live with the hostility of the world and endure a vicious cycle of escalating violence.

In this effort, I have committed US$10 million to America Coming Together, (ACT) a grass-roots get-out-the-vote operation, and US$2.5 million to the Voter Fund, a popular Internet advocacy group that is airing advertisements to highlight the administration's misdeeds.

This is a pittance in comparison with money raised and spent by US conservative groups.

Rather than a debate on the issues, there's been a lot of name-calling about my donations by such groups as the Republican National Committee and the National Rifle Association. In an attempt to taint the groups I support and intimidate other donors, they imply that my contributions are illegitimate or that I have somehow broken the law. In fact, I have scrupulously abided by both the letter and the spirit of the law. Both America Coming Together and the Voter Fund are organizations that, according to a specific reference in the US tax code, are entitled to receive unlimited contributions from individuals. Both groups are fully transparent about their motives and activities. Both file detailed and frequent reports with government regulators.

America's most recent campaign finance law attempts to limit the influence that special interests can gain by financing candidates and so level the playing field between the Republican and Democratic parties.

My contributions are made in that spirit.

President George W. Bush has a huge fundraising advantage because he has figured out a clever way to raise money. He relies on donors he calls "Pioneers," who collect US$100,000 apiece in campaign contributions in increments that fall within the legal limit of US$2,000 that any individual can give, and relies on donors he calls "Rangers," who collect at least US$200,000. Many of these Pioneers and Rangers are corporate officials who are well situated to raise funds from their business associates, bundle them together and pass them along with tracking numbers to ensure proper "credit" to each individual donor of US$2,000.

Thus they are buying the same level of access and influence for their corporate interests that they previously obtained with their own and corporate funds.

With the help of these Pioneers and Rangers, Bush is on track to collect US$200 million.

To counter the fundraising advantage obtained by this strategy, I have contributed to independent organizations that by law are forbidden to coordinate their activities with the political parties or candidates. That law minimizes or eliminates the ability to purchase influence in exchange for my contribution. Moreover, I don't seek such influence. My contributions are made in what I believe to be the common interest. ACT is working to register voters, and MoveOn is getting more people engaged in the national debate over Bush's policies. I recognize that the system is imperfect, and I wish there were a different way to level the playing field. Making contributions to ACT and the Voter Fund is the best approach I have found.

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