George Soros, the liberal billionaire and champion for liberal causes, has donated $1.5 million to three Democratic Super PACs. $1 million will go to Obama’s Super PAC Priorities USA and $500,000 will go to two congressional PACs. That brings Soros’ total donations this year to $4.3 million. The NY Times reported that Soros made his contribution at a luncheon where donors committed to an additional $10 million in Democratic campaign financing.
Ever since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowed for unlimited financial contributions, conservative billionaires like Sheldon Anderson and the Koch Brothers have personally contributed millions of dollars to conservative super PACs, such as Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, as well as raising hundreds of millions from fellow conservative multi-millionaires. Their counterparts on the left have been ardent critics of the Citizens decision and until now have not matched the conservatives with multi-million dollar lump sum contributions to liberal PACs such as Priorities USA. Politico said the “donations announced Thursday cheered Democrats hoping Soros’s shift would presage similar contributions by like-minded wealthy donors.”
In an email reported by the Times, Soros explained his change of heart by saying; he was “appalled by the Romney campaign, which is openly soliciting the money of the rich to starve the state of the money it needs to provide social services.”
Soros has been a vocal opponent to the Citizens United decision and his change of heart sends a signal to others that it is time to level the playing field. The Christian Science Monitor said, “Soros' contribution may signal that Democratic-leaning donors of elections past are starting to come around to super PACs.”
The Times reported that Democrats are coming around to the fact that super PACs are a part of the political landscape and are opening their wallets in preparation for the stretch run of the election season. Donald and Shelley Rubin, entrepreneurs who built one of the country’s largest health care companies donated $1M in September. In the Times article they explained, “we believe we cannot sit on the sidelines and simply let the president’s opponents capitalize on the court’s decision by bombarding the public with misleading and false attack ads.”
Large contributions are needed to pay for the advertising time that has been scheduled for the final 30 days of the campaign. According to the Times, Democratic sympathizers have responded with big dollar contributions. James Simmons, a Long Island investor and philanthropist has donated $4 million to Priorities USA, and two other groups and Peter G. Angelos, majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles, has given more than $1.2 million to Democratic super PACs.
Having Soros join the more than 40 individuals that have given more than $250,000 each, and the dozens more that have given $100,000 or more, represents a game changer for the Democratic Party campaign efforts. Soros has been one of the leading financial contributors to Democratic causes since 2004. In 2004 Soros donated $24 million, a record at the time, to Democratic groups in an effort to beat Bush. That year, he and Peter Lewis, the chairmen of Progressive Insurance, were the major backers of an effort that raised $200 million for Democratic groups. A significantly large amount of the donations were used for campaign advertising and after the loss, Soros and others became skeptical about the value and effectiveness of campaign ads. Soros’ donation proves that he has gotten over his leeriness of super PAC sponsored campaign advertising.
The New Yorker reports that in 2008 Soros’ $5 million donation to help elect President Obama made him one of the three largest campaign donors of either party that year. Since 1979, The New Yorker reports that Soros has donated over $8 billion to liberal causes in the U.S. and other countries.
Soros has long been a thorn in the side of the conservative right and they tend to respond quickly to any activity on his part. The New Yorker calls him “the bane of conservative critics.” In 2010, he donated to Fox News watchdog Media Matters for America. At the time, Politico reported Soros as saying, “despite repeated assertions to the contrary by various Fox News commentators, I have not to date been a funder of Media Matters. However, in view of recent evidence suggesting that the incendiary rhetoric of Fox News hosts may incite violence, I have now decided to support the organization.” Politico reported that conservatives reacted immediately to the announcement of the Soros donation and included it in their latest fund raising email.
Earlier this year, people who spoke with Soros came away believing he thought that the 2012 election was less dire than the 2004 campaign. At that time, The New Yorker said Soros regarded George W. Bush as "a threat to world peace.” Whether it is the Republican’s attempt to end Social Security and Medicare as we know it or their attempt to roll back women’s reproductive rights, something in their social service platform has caused Soros to change course and that is good news for the Democratic Party.