|Organizations that promote not only women’s right to taxpayer-funded abortion on demand,128 but also political candidates who take that same position:Soros donees in this category include theCenter for Reproductive Rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Abortion Federation, Planned Parenthood, and Choice USA.
Organizations that favor global government which would bring American foreign policy under the control of the United Nations or other international bodies:
According to George Soros, “[W]e need some global system of political decision-making. In short, we need a global society to support our global economy.”129 Consistent with this perspective, the Open Society Institute in 2008 gave $150,000 to the United Nations Foundation, which “works to broaden support for the UN through advocacy and public outreach.”130 Moreover, OSI is considered a “major” funder of the Coalition for an International Criminal Court,131 which aims to subordinate American criminal-justice procedures in certain cases to an international prosecutor who could initiate capricious or politically motivated prosecutions of U.S. officials and military officers.132
Organizations that support drug legalization:
Dismissing the notion of “a drug-free America” as nothing more than “a utopian dream,” George Soros says that “the war on drugs” is “insane” and, “like the Vietnam War,” simply “cannot be won.”133 “I’ll tell you what I would do if it were up to me,” says Soros. “I would establish a strictly controlled distribution network through which I would make most drugs, excluding the most dangerous ones like crack, legally available.”134 In 1998 Soros was a signatory to a public letter addressed to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, declaring that “the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself.”135 The letter blamed the war on drugs for impeding such public health efforts as stemming the spread of HIV, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases, as well as human rights violations and the perpetration of environmental assaults. Other notable signers included Peter Lewis, Tammy Baldwin, Rev. William Sloan Coffin, Jr., Walter Cronkite, Morton H. Halperin, Kweisi Mfume, and Cornel West.
Soros and his Open Society Institute have given many millions of dollars to groups supporting drug-legalization and needle-exchange programs. In 1996, former Carter administration official Joseph Califano called Soros “the Daddy Warbucks of drug legalization.”136 According to a Capital Research Center publication, “It’s no exaggeration to say that without Soros there would be no serious lobby against the drug war.”137
A leading recipient of Soros funding is the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which seeks to loosen narcotics laws, promotes “treatment-not-incarceration” policies for non-violent drug offenders, and advocates syringe-access programs “to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.”138 Soros himself formerly sat on the DPA board of directors.139 As recently as 2010, Soros contributed $1 million to support a California ballot measure known as Proposition 19, which would have legalized personal marijuana use in the state; the measure, however, was rejected by voters on election day.140
Peter Schweizer, author of Do As I Say (Not As I Do), speculates on the possible reasons underlying Soros’s support for drug legalization:
Organizations that support euthanasia for the terminally ill:
Soros has long promoted the cause of physician-assisted suicide in an effort to change public attitudes about death. Toward that end, in 1994 he began giving money to the (now defunct) Project on Death in America (PDA), whose purpose was to provide “end-of-life” assistance for ailing people and to enact public policy that will “transform the culture and experience of dying and bereavement.”142 Over a 9-year period, the Open Society Institute gave $45 million to PDA.143
Notably, PDA’s mission was congruent with the goals of those who support government-run health care, which invariably features bureaucracies tasked with allocating scarce resources and thus determining who will, and who will not, be eligible for particular medications and treatments. Such bureaucracies generally make their calculations based upon cost-benefit analyses of a variety of possible treatments. Ultimately these decisions tend to disfavor the very old and the very sick, because whatever benefits they might gain from expensive interventions are likely to be of short duration, and thus are not judged to be worth the costs. Soros himself has suggested that “[a]ggressive, life-prolonging interventions, which may at times go against the patient’s wishes, are much more expensive than proper care for the dying.”144 Additional pro-euthanasia groups funded by Soros and OSI are the following:
Organizations that have pressured mortgage lenders to make loans to undercapitalized borrowers, a practice that helped spark the subprime mortgage crisis and housing-market collapse of 2008:
The Greenlining Institute147―by threatening to publicly accuse banks of racially discriminatory lending practices―has successfully negotiated loan commitments of more than $2.4 trillion from America’s financial institutions.148
Soros’s Political Campaign Contributions
Apart from the more than $5 billion that Soros’ foundation network has donated to leftist groups like those cited above, Soros personally has made campaign contributions to such notable political candidates as Charles Rangel, Al Franken, Tom Udall, Joe Sestak, Sherrod Brown, Harry Reid, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer, Ken Salazar, Patrick Leahy, John Kerry, Charles Schumer, Howard Dean, Bill Clinton, Tom Harkin, Jon Corzine, Joe Biden, Richard Durbin, Lane Evans, Dennis Kucinich, Maurice Hinchey, and Al Gore. He also has given large sums of money to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democratic National Committee Services Corporation.
Soros Meets the Clintons
Around the time that George Soros initially launched his Manhattan-based Open Society Institute, he established what would prove to be a warm and enduring relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton, the new American President and First Lady. When the Clintons took office in early 1993, they faced the daunting task of helping the collapsed Soviet empire rise from its ruins and cultivate a harmonious relationship with the United States. To lead this endeavor, President Clinton appointed three men: Treasury Department official Lawrence Summers, Vice President Al Gore, and soon-to-be State Department official Strobe Talbott. Talbott in particular was given a large degree of authority, prompting some observers to dub him as Clinton’s “Russian policy czar.”150 It so happened that Talbot had an exceptionally high regard for the financial expertise of George Soros―describing him as “a national resource, indeed, a national treasure”―and thus he recruited the billionaire to serve as a key advisor on U.S.-Russian matters.151
Soros, in turn, had connections with a young economist whom he had been funding―Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Harvard Institute for International Development. The U.S. Agency for International Development assigned Sachs’ Institute to oversee Russia’s transformation to a market economy after more than seven decades of communism. As a consequence of this assignment, Sachs and his team essentially represented the United States as official economic advisors to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Soros worked closely with Sachs on this project, and the pair held enormous sway over Yeltsin.152 So great was their influence, in fact, that on one occasion Soros quipped that “the former Soviet Empire is now called the Soros Empire.”153 But before long, members of Sachs’s team became involved in massive corruption, exploiting for personal gain their access to Russia’s political and economic leaders. Their actions contributed to the collapse of the Russian economy and to the diversion of some $100 billion out of the country.154 Though Sachs himself was not accused of profiting personally from these activities, he resigned as director of the Harvard Institute in May 1999, under a dark cloud of scandal.155 The U.S. House Banking Committee investigated the matter and called Soros to testify. The billionaire denied culpability but admitted that he had used insider access in an illegal deal to acquire a large portion of Sidanko Oil.156 Soros further acknowledged in Congressional testimony that some of the missing Russian assets had made their way into his personal investment portfolio.157 House Banking Committee chairman Jim Leach characterized the entire sordid affair as “one of the greatest social robberies in human history.”158
As the Nineties progressed, it became increasingly evident that Bill and Hillary Clinton embraced virtually all of the values and agendas that George Soros was funding through his Open Society Institute. “I do now have great access in [the Clinton] administration,” said Soros in 1995. “There is no question about this. We actually work together as a team.”159
Soros and Mrs. Clinton in particular held one another in the highest esteem. In November 1997, when Hillary was in Central Asia for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the newly built American University of Kyrgyzstan, she delivered a speech in which she lavished praise on Soros’s Open Society Institute, which had financed the school’s construction.160 One source close to Mrs. Clinton’s inner circle, Center for American Democracy director Rachel Ehrenfeld, reports that Soros visited Hillary at the White House during the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings of 1998-99, when the First Lady was receiving only her most trusted confidantes.161 A few years later, at a June 2004 “Take Back America” conference in Washington, Mrs. Clinton introduced Soros as a courageous man who loved his country deeply. “[W]e need people like George Soros,” she said, “who is fearless, and willing to step up when it counts.” Soros, in turn, indicated that he was “very, very proud to be introduced” by someone for whom he had such “great, great admiration.” He described Hillary as someone who had been “more effective than most of our statesmen in propagating democracy, freedom, and open society.”162
September 11, and Soros’s Deeper Immersion into American Politics
September 11, 2001 was a watershed moment not only in American history but also in George Soros’s philanthropic career. Soros viewed the 9/11 terrorist attacks as confirmation that U.S. foreign policy―particularly under President George W. Bush, who had taken office eight months earlier―was moving in a dangerous direction, giving rise to anti-American hatred in the hearts of people all across the globe. By Soros’s reckoning, Bush embodied the very antithesis of the “open society” ideal. Specifically, the billionaire detested what he viewed as the arrogance the President displayed when he publicly branded America’s enemies as “evil”; when he unapologetically expressed his faith in the exceptionalism of his own culture; and when he seemed disinclined to consider the possibility that the terrorists may have had something valuable to teach Americans about how the rest of the world perceived the United States. Moreover, Soros considered terrorism to be, in large measure, a consequence of economic inequity and the exploitation of poor countries by their wealthier counterparts.
Reasoning from these premises, Soros―while conceding that the retaliatory U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was justifiable163―maintained that the proper long-term response to 9/11 would be for America to launch a global war on poverty. Such an undertaking would be modeled on the Great Society programs which the Johnson administration had instituted in the 1960s―on the theory that by pouring rivers of taxpayer dollars into the nation’s violence-torn ghettos, the presumably justified rage of the rioters could be quelled. In a similar vein, Soros now held that the best way to fight international terrorism would be for the affluent USA to send massive amounts of aid to impoverished regions around the world where the phenomenon tended to originate. Indeed, he had long maintained that the “root causes” of terrorism were “poverty” and “ignorance.”164 Just eight days after 9/11, Soros gave a speech where he said that the “cornerstone” of his “plan” was to “address the social conditions that provide a fertile ground from which [terrorist] volunteers who are willing to sacrifice their lives can be recruited.” This plan would call on “rich countries” to boost their levels of “international assistance,” which―while unlikely to “prevent people like bin Laden from exercising their evil genius”―would “help to alleviate the grievances on which extremism of all kinds feeds.”165
On subsequent occasions, Soros would reiterate his belief that terrorism was caused by a dearth of “international income redistribution” and a “growing inequality between rich and poor, both within countries and among countries.”166 “A global open society,” Soros stressed, “requires affirmative action on a global scale.”167 By contrast, Soros was largely silent on the issue of Islam’s longstanding tradition of jihad, which predated by many hundreds of years any potentially objectionable U.S. foreign-policy initiatives. Rather, he called for a “radical reordering” of American “priorities,” where “[i]nstead of devoting the bulk of the budget to military expenditures to implement the Bush doctrine, we would engage in preventive actions of a constructive nature.”168 “The United States cannot do whatever it wants,” he scolded. “… Our nation must concern itself with the well-being of the world.”169
In Soros’s calculus, 9/11 represented “an unusual opportunity to rethink and reshape the world.” Observing that the recent attacks had “shocked” Americans “into realizing that others may regard them very differently from the way they see themselves,” Soros posited that his fellow countrymen were “more ready to reassess the world and the role the United States plays in it than in normal times.”170 And acknowledging that “[t]his awareness may not last long,” he said: “I am determined not to let the moment pass.”171
The urgency which Soros felt with regard to seizing the moment was further heightened on the night of January 29, 2002, when George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address. In that speech, the President made his first controversial reference to Iraq as part of an “axis of evil” that posed a potentially deadly threat to America. Bush intimated that he would soon turn his foreign-policy attention toward Saddam Hussein’s regime, which continued to “flaunt its hostility toward America,” “support terror,” and violate its international agreements. As the President pledged not to “wait on events while dangers gather,” nor to “stand by as peril draws closer and closer,” speculation about a possible U.S. invasion of Iraq began to coalesce.172 In Soros’s view, such an invasion would be yet another misguided and senseless endeavor, and he was determined to do whatever he could to prevent it.
The very next month, Soros appointed former Clinton administration official Morton Halperin to the post of Open Society Institute director. Halperin, whom some State Department officials suspected of being a communist agent,173 had been instrumental in derailing America’s war effort during the Vietnam era, when President Johnson put him in charge of compiling a classified history of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. Halperin’s labor ultimately bore fruit―in June 1971―with the publication of the notorious “Pentagon Papers.”174 Thereafter, Halperin went on to serve (from 1975-1992) as director of an ACLU project called the Center for National Security Studies, which sought to slash U.S. defense expenditures and undermine the nation’s intelligence capabilities.175 In Target America―James L. Tyson’s 1981 exposé of the Soviet Union’s elaborate “propaganda campaign designed to weaken and demoralize America from the inside”―the author stated:
“Halperin … and his organizations have had a constant record of advocating the weakening of U.S. intelligence capabilities. His organizations are also notable for ignoring the activities of the KGB or any other foreign intelligence organization…. A balance sheet analysis of Halperin’s writings and testimonies … gives Halperin a score of 100% on the side of output favorable to the Communist line and 0% on any output opposed to the Communist line.”176
By the time the U.S. invaded Iraq in early 2003, Soros’s contempt for President Bush’s “imperialist vision” had reached a fever pitch.180 Accusing Bush of “deliberately foster[ing] fear because it helps to keep the nation lined up behind the president,” Soros added cynically: “Terrorism is the ideal enemy. It is invisible and therefore never disappears. An enemy that poses a genuine and recognized threat can effectively hold a nation together.”181 In August, Soros warned that the very “fate of the world depends on the United States, and President Bush is leading us in the wrong direction” with his “false and dangerous” doctrine.182 In the fall, Soros referred to Bush administration officials and Republicans generally as “extremists” who “don’t believe in the system of democracy as we know it”; and who embraced “a very dangerous ideology” which held that “the United States … should impose its power, impose its will and its interests on the world.”183
Soros routinely condemned Bush for his “unabashed pursuit of self-interest”;184 for “equat[ing] freedom with American values”; for holding the “simplistic view” that “[w]e are right and they are wrong”;185 and for harboring a “false sense of certitude” that Americans had “right on our side.”186 Each of these transgressions, Soros explained, violated the “principles of open society, which recognize that we may be wrong.”187 “The supremacist ideology of the Bush administration,” he added, “is in contradiction with the principles of an open society because it claims possession of an ultimate truth.”188
As the Iraq War took an increasing toll in terms of both American and Iraqi lives, Soros wrote that the U.S. military response to 9/11 had actually turned out to be a greater moral atrocity than the original “crime” that prompted it, because the war “has claimed more innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq than have the attacks on the World Trade Center.” In short, Soros characterized the Bush administration’s “pursuit of American supremacy” as more dangerous than Islamist terror.189
Not only did Soros believe that Bush was following a mindless and perilous policy, but he saw the President’s motives as wholly dishonorable. Soros repeatedly accused Bush of using intelligence that had been “exposed as exaggerated or even false” to justify the invasion of Iraq under “false pretenses.”190 He denounced “the exploitation of September 11 by the Bush administration to pursue its policy of dominating the world in the guise of fighting terrorism.”191 He expanded on this theme by accusing Bush of seeking “to justify repressive measures” on the home front while “establish[ing] a secure alternative to Saudi oil” in the Mideast.192 “The other important consideration,” Soros added, “was Israel.” He intimated that Bush, by flexing U.S. muscle in the Middle East, was signaling his readiness to intervene in affairs that could potentially affect America’s closest ally in the region. By so doing, said Soros, the President was catering to “the traditional pro-Israel lobby” which included “the evangelical right―and that is the core of the president’s constituency.”193
As Soros saw things, the President’s arrogance and corruption had filtered down perceptibly into the ranks of the military personnel who were carrying out Bush’s mission. Thus Soros likened the conduct of American troops to that of communist and fascist thugs, asserting that “the picture of torture in Abu Ghraib” was proof that “the way President Bush conducted the war on terror converted us from victims into perpetrators.”194 Soros charged that not only had America “violated international law” by “invading Iraq … without a second UN Resolution,” but that it had “violated the Geneva Conventions” by “mistreating and even torturing prisoners.”195
On numerous occasions, Soros drew parallels between the Bush administration and some of history’s most infamous totalitarian regimes. Bush’s view that “there is only one model of democracy,” said Soros, was “as false, and potentially as dangerous, as that of the Communists’ belief that there is only one way to organize society.”196 Soros further likened Bush’s “Orwellian” assertion that “[y]ou can have freedom as long as you do what we tell you to do,” to Soviet rhetoric about “people’s democracies.”197 “When I hear President Bush say, ‘You’re either with us or against us,’ it reminds me of the Germans,” Soros stated. “My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitized me.”198 “Who would have thought sixty years ago,” asked Soros, “when Karl Popper wrote The Open Society and Its Enemies, that the United States itself could pose a threat to open society? Yet that is what is happening, both internally and internationally.”199
In a September 29, 2003 interview with BBC radio, Soros said it was imperative that there be “a regime change in the United States”―meaning that President Bush must be “voted out of power.”200 In November, Soros said that because “America, under Bush, is a danger to the world,” the outcome of the forthcoming year’s presidential race had become “the central focus of my life.” “And I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is,” Soros added, declaring that he would willingly trade his entire multi-billion-dollar fortune if doing so could be “guaranteed” to unseat Bush.201 To his litany of grievances against the President, Soros now added the infamous Florida recount debacle of 2000 and called into question the very legitimacy of Bush’s election victory. “President Bush came to office without a clear mandate,” said Soros. “He was elected president by a single vote on the Supreme Court.”202
The types of changes America needed were crystal clear to Soros. Above all else, he wished to steer the country, politically and ideologically, in a direction that was consistent with the agendas of the groups that he had been funding for a decade through his Open Society Institute. Those agendas could essentially be distilled down to three overriding themes: the diminution of American power, the subjugation of American sovereignty in favor of global governance, and the implementation of redistributive economic policies―both within the U.S. and across national borders. Toward these ends, Soros saw “the forthcoming elections” as “an excellent opportunity to deflate the bubble of American supremacy.”203 He would employ his wealth and his ideological fervor to capitalize on this opportunity, knowing that the best time to implement radical change is during times of upheaval and crisis―i.e., times like the aftermath of 9/11. “Usually it takes a crisis to prompt a meaningful change in direction,” Soros himself had written in his 2000 book Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism.204
Soros’s Previous Interventions
By no means was this the first time that Soros had aimed to engineer the fall of a government which he deemed oppressive. On several previous occasions, he had used his extraordinary wealth to bankroll popular movements seeking to undermine communist and authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Specifically, Soros had funded the training, organization and mobilization of many millions of demonstrators who took part in a series of bloodless political revolutions―commonly known as “velvet revolutions” or “color revolutions”205―that ultimately brought down governments in those regions. Typically, these mobilizations consisted of massive street rallies (sometimes with hundreds of thousands of participants) and carefully coordinated acts of civil disobedience such as sit-ins and general strikes. In several instances, such Soros-funded protesters challenged the results of popular elections and accused incumbent leaders of election fraud―charges which were then echoed by Soros-funded exit pollsters and Soros-funded media outlets, thereby greatly amplifying the effect of the accusations. A brief survey of Soros’s most noteworthy foreign interventions will be useful at this point.
Soros helped bankroll “Charter 77,” a 1976 document demanding that the Czech government recognize some basic human rights―most notably the freedom to express religious beliefs or political opinions without fear of retributive discrimination―that were already guaranteed by the nation’s constitution. This Charter and the political movement that grew from it ultimately culminated in the velvet revolution that brought down Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime in late 1989.206
Soros funding played a critical role in promoting other upheavals in the former Soviet bloc as well. “My foundations,” boasts Soros, “contributed to Democratic regime change in Slovakia in 1998, Croatia in 1999, and Yugoslavia in 2000, mobilizing civil society to get rid of Vladimir Meciar, Franjo Tudjman, and Slobodan Milosevic, respectively.”207
Meciar, for his part, was a hardline nationalist whose authoritarian government―characterized by demagoguery, corruption, and hostility toward the Hungarian minority―brought instability and isolation to Slovakia in the mid-1990s.208 Croatian president Tudjman was likewise an autocrat infamous for his brutality, extreme nationalism, indifference to civil rights, and manipulation of electoral processes.209 And Milosevic, who served as president of Serbia and Yugoslavia in the 1990s, was an infamous architect of military aggression, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing.210 British journalist Neil Clark reports that from 1991 to 2000, Soros and his Open Society Institute methodically laid the groundwork for the movement that ultimately led to Milosevic’s resignation, “channel[ing] more than $100m to the coffers of the anti-Milosevic opposition, funding political parties, publishing houses and ‘independent’ media…”211 In a 1996 speech, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman offered a profound insight into how Soros typically injected his influence into the political workings of a given nation by patiently and systematically infiltrating strategic organizations and governmental agencies:
“[Soros and his allies] have spread their tentacles throughout the whole of our society. Soros … had approval to … gather and distribute humanitarian aid.… However, we … allowed them to do almost whatever they wanted.… They have involved in their network … people of all ages and classes … trying to win them over by financial aid.… [Their aim is] control of all spheres of life … setting up a state within a state.…”212
Soros thereafter would go on to fund the “Orange Revolution,” a series of protests and political events that took place in Ukraine from late November 2004 to January 2005, ultimately forcing Moscow’s favored candidate, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, to lose a controversial and hotly contested presidential election.221 Also in early 2005, Soros helped finance the “Tulip Revolution”―a massive protest movement that led to the overthrow of President Askar Akayev and his government in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan.222
New Target for “Regime Change”: America
But right now, in 2003-04, Soros’s primary focus was on the United States, whose government he considered to be at least as dangerous and oppressive as those of the aforementioned communist and authoritarian regimes. “I believe deeply in the values of an open society,” Soros said. “For the past 15 years I have focused my energies on fighting for these values abroad. Now I am doing it in the United States.”223 Asserting that he could “do a lot more about the issues I care about by changing the government than by pushing the issues,”224 Soros set out to “puncture the bubble of American supremacy.”225 To accomplish this, he would create a political apparatus of extraordinary influence.
Soros had quietly laid the groundwork for this apparatus during the preceding eight years. Between 1994 and 2002, the billionaire had spent millions of dollars promoting the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act―better known as the McCain-Feingold Act226―which was signed into law in November 2002 by President Bush. Soros began working on this issue shortly after the 1994 midterm elections, when for the first time in nearly half a century, Republicans won strong majorities in both houses of Congress. Political analysts at the time attributed the huge Republican gains in large part to the effectiveness of television advertising―most notably the “Harry and Louise” series (which cost $14 million to produce and air) where a fictional suburban couple exposed the many hidden, and distasteful, details of Hillary Clinton’s proposals for a more socialized national health-care system. Indeed the 1994 election became, to a considerable degree, a referendum on this attempted government takeover of one-sixth of the U.S. economy―and on the Democratic President who had tacitly endorsed it. George Soros was angry that such advertisements were capable of overriding the influence of the major print and broadcast news media, which, because they were overwhelmingly sympathetic to Democrat agendas, had given Hillary’s plan a great deal of free, positive publicity for months. Three weeks after the 1994 elections, Soros announced that he intended to “do something” about “the distortion of our electoral process by the excessive use of TV advertising.”227 That “something” would be campaign-finance reform.
Starting in 1994, Soros’s Open Society Institute and a few other leftist foundations began bankrolling front groups and so-called “experts” whose aim was to persuade Congress to swallow the fiction that millions of Americans were clamoring for “campaign-finance reform.” This deceptive strategy was the brainchild of Sean Treglia, a former program officer with the Pew Charitable Trusts.228 Between 1994 and 2004, some $140 million of foundation cash was used to promote campaign-finance reform. Nearly 90 percent of this amount derived from just eight foundations, one of which was the Open Society Institute, which contributed $12.6 million to the cause.229 Among the major recipients of these OSI funds were such pro-reform organizations as Common Cause ($625,000); Public Campaign ($1.3 million); Democracy 21 ($300,000); the Alliance For Better Campaigns ($650,000); the Center For Public Integrity ($1.7 million); the Center For Responsive Politics ($75,000); Public Citizen ($275,000); and the Brennan Center for Justice (more than $3.3 million).230
The “research” which these groups produced in order to make a case on behalf of campaign-finance reform was largely bogus and contrived. For instance, Brennan Center political scientist Jonathan Krasno had clearly admitted in his February 19, 1999 grant proposal to the Pew Charitable Trusts that the purpose of the proposed study was political, not scholarly, and that the project would be axed if it failed to yield the desired results:
“The purpose of our acquiring the data set is not simply to advance knowledge for its own sake, but to fuel a continuous multi-faceted campaign to propel campaign reform forward. Whether we proceed to phase two will depend on the judgment of whether the data provide a sufficiently powerful boost to the reform movement.”
The stated purpose of McCain-Feingold was to purge politics of corruption by: (a) putting restrictions on paid advertising during the weeks just prior to political elections, and (b) tightly regulating the amount of money that political parties and candidates could accept from donors. Vis à vis the former of those two provisions, the new legislation barred private organizations―including unions, corporations, and citizen activist groups―from advertising for or against any candidate for federal office on television or radio during the 60 days preceding an election, and during the 30 days preceding a primary. During these blackout periods, only official political parties would be permitted to engage in “express advocacy” advertising―i.e., political ads that expressly urged voters to “vote for” or “vote against” a specified candidate. Equally important, major media networks were exempted from McCain-Feingold’s constraints; thus they were free to speak about candidates in any manner they wished during their regular programming and news broadcasts. This would inevitably be a positive development for Democrats, who enjoyed the near-universal support of America’s leading media outlets.231
In addition to its limits on pre-election political advertising, McCain-Feingold also placed onerous new restrictions on the types of donations which candidates, parties, and political action committees (PACs) could now accept. Previously, they had been permitted to take two types of contributions. One of these was “hard money,” which referred to funds earmarked for the purpose of express advocacy. Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations stipulated that in a single calendar year, no hard-money donor could give more than $1,000 to any particular candidate, no more than $5,000 to a PAC, and no more than $20,000 to any political party.232
The other category of pre-McCain-Feingold donations was “soft-money,” which donors were permitted to give directly to a political party in amounts unlimited by law. But to qualify for designation as “soft money,” a donation could not be used to fund “express advocacy” ads on behalf of any particular candidate. Rather, it had to be used to pay for such things as “voter-education” ads or “issue-oriented” ads―political messages that carefully refrained from making explicit calls to “vote for” or “vote against” any specific candidate. So long as an ad steered clear of uttering such forbidden instructions, there was no limit as to how much soft money could be spent on its production and dissemination.
McCain-Feingold raised the per-donor maximum for certain hard-money donations: A donor could now give up to $2,000 to a candidate, $5,000 to a PAC, and $25,000 to a political party.233 But the new law banned soft-money contributions to political parties altogether.
Historically, Republicans had enjoyed a 2-1 advantage over Democrats in raising hard money from individual donors. Democrats had relied much more heavily on soft money from large institutions such as labor unions.234 Thus it seems counter-intuitive that Soros, who clearly favored Democrats over Republicans, would seek to push legislation whose net effect―the removal of soft money―would be unfavorable to Democratic Party fundraising efforts.
But Soros’s motive becomes clear when we look at the types of organizations whose fundraising activities were left unaffected by McCain-Feingold. These were “527 committees”―nonprofits named after Section 527 of the IRS code―which, unlike ordinary PACS, were not required to register with the FEC. Run mostly by special-interest groups, these 527s were technically supposed to be independent of, and unaffiliated with, any party or candidate. As such, they were permitted to raise soft money―in amounts unbound by any legal limits―for all manner of political activities other than express advocacy. That is, so long as a 527’s soft money was not being used to pay for ads explicitly urging people to cast their ballots either for or against any particular candidate, the letter of the McCain-Feingold law technically was being followed. Practically speaking, of course, such things as “issue-oriented ads” and “voter-education” ads can easily be tailored to favor one party or candidate over another, while carefully steering clear of “express advocacy.”
Once McCain-Feingold was in place, Soros and his political allies collaborated to set up a network of “527 committees” ready to receive the soft money that individual donors and big labor unions normally would have given directly to the Democratic Party. These 527s could then use that money to fund issue-oriented ads, voter-education initiatives, get-out-the-vote drives, and other “party-building” activities―not only to help elect Democratic candidates in 2004, but more broadly to guide the Democratic Party ever-further leftward and to reject the “closed” society that Bush and the Republicans presumably favored. By helping to push McCain-Feingold through Congress, Soros had effectively cut off the Democrats’ soft-money supply and diverted it to the coffers of an alternative network of beneficiaries―which he personally controlled.235 As Byron York observed, “[T]he new campaign finance rules had actually increased the influence of big money in politics. By giving directly to ‘independent’ groups rather than to the party itself, big-ticket donors could influence campaign strategy and tactics more directly than they ever had previously…. And the power was concentrated in very few hands”―most notably Soros’s.236
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