Introducing George "spooky dude" Soros
1. George Soros's
Roots and Development
2. Soros the Philanthropist
3. The Soros Agendas
3. Soros's Political
4. Soros Meets the Clintons 5. September 11, and Soros's Deeper Immersion into American Politics 6. Soros's Previous Interventions
7. New Target for “Regime Change”: America 8. Soros's “Shadow Party” Takes Shape 9. Failure and Resiliency: Birth of The Democracy Alliance
10. Radicalizing America, One State at a Time: “PLAN” and the Secretary of State Project 11. Soros Helps Create Two New Pro-Democrat Groups
12. Soros and Obama: The Quiet Partnership 13. Soros Continues to Pursue His Agendas 14. Soros Maps out Obama Strategy
New York hedge fund manager George Soros is one of the
most politically powerful individuals on earth. Since the mid-1980s in
particular, he has used his immense influence to help reconfigure the political
landscapes of several countries around the world―in some cases playing a key
role in toppling regimes that had held the reins of government for years, even
decades. Vis à vis the United States, a strong case can be made for the claim
that Soros today affects American politics and culture more profoundly that any
other living person.
Much of Soros's influence derives from his $13 billion personal fortune, which is further leveraged by at least another $25 billion in investor assets controlled by his firm, Soros Fund Management. An equally significant source of Soros's power, however, is his passionate messianic zeal. Soros views himself as a missionary with something of a divine mandate to transform the world and its institutions into something better―as he sees it.
Over the years, Soros has given voice
to this sense of grandiosity many times and in a variety of different ways. In
his 1987 book The Alchemy of Finance, for instance, he wrote: “I admit that I
have always harbored an exaggerated view of self-importance―to put it bluntly, I
fancied myself as some kind of god or an economic reformer like Keynes or, even
better, a scientist like Einstein.” Expanding on this theme in his 1991 book
Underwriting Democracy, Soros said: “If truth be known, I carried some rather
potent messianic fantasies with me from childhood,” fantasies which “I wanted to
indulge … to the extent that I could afford.”In a June 1993 interview with The
Independent, Soros, who is an atheist, said he saw himself as “some kind of god,
the creator of everything.” In an interview two years later, he portrayed
himself as someone who shared numerous attributes with “God in the Old
Testament” ― “[Y]ou know, like invisible. I was pretty invisible. Benevolent. I
was pretty benevolent. All-seeing. I tried to be all-seeing.” Soros told his
biographer Michael Kaufman that his “goal” was nothing less ambitious than “to
become the conscience of the world” by using his charitable foundations, which
will be discussed at length in this pamphlet, to bankroll organizations and
causes that he deems worthwhile.
“I realized [as a young man] that it's money that makes the world go round,” says Soros, “so I might as well make money.… But having made it, I could then indulge my social concerns.” Invariably, those concerns center around a desire to change the world generally―and America particularly―into something new, something consistent with his vision of “social justice.” Claiming to be “driven” by “illusions, or perhaps delusions, of grandeur,” Soros has humorously described himself as “a kind of nut who wants to have an impact” on the workings of the world. The billionaire's longtime friend Byron Wien, currently the vice chairman of Blackstone Advisory Services, offers this insight: “You must understand [Soros] thinks he’s been anointed by God to solve insoluble problems. The proof is that he has been so successful at making so much [money]. He therefore thinks he has a responsibility to give money away”―to causes that are consistent with his values and agendas.
George Soros's Roots and Development
George Soros was born to Tividar and Erzebat Schwartz, non-practicing Jews, in Budapest, Hungary on August 12, 1930. Tivadar was an attorney by profession, but the consuming passion of his life was the promotion of Esperanto―an artificial, “universal” language created during the 1880s in hopes that people worldwide might be persuaded to drop their native tongues and speak Esperanto instead―thereby, in theory at least, minimizing their nationalist impulses while advancing intercultural harmony. In 1936, Tivadar changed his family surname to Soros―a future-tense Esperanto verb meaning “will soar.”
When the Nazis occupied Budapest in 1944, Tivadar decided to split up his family so as to minimize the chance that all its members would be killed together. For each of them―his wife and two sons―he purchased forged papers identifying them as Christians and then bribed Gentile families to take them into their homes. As for George in particular, the father bribed a Hungarian government official named Baumbach to claim George as his Christian godson, “Sandor Kiss,” and to let the boy live with him. One of Baumbach's duties was to deliver deportation notices to Hungary's Jews, confiscating their property and turning it over to Germany. Young George Soros sometimes accompanied the official on his rounds. Many years later, in December 1998, a CBS interviewer would ask Soros whether he had ever felt any guilt about his association with Baumbach during that period. Soros replied: “… I was only a spectator ... I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt.”
Soros today recalls the German occupation of Hungary as “probably the happiest year of my life.” “For me,” he elaborates, “it was a very positive experience. It's a strange thing because you see incredible suffering around you and the fact you are in considerable danger yourself. But you're fourteen years old and you don't believe that it can actually touch you. You have a belief in yourself. You have a belief in your father. It's a very happy-making, exhilarating experience.”
In 1947 the Soros family relocated from Hungary to England, where George attended the London School of Economics (LSE). There, he was exposed to the works of the Viennese-born philosopher Karl Popper, who taught at LSE and whom Soros would later call his “spiritual mentor. “Though Soros never studied directly under Popper, he read the latter's works and submitted some essays to him for review and comment. Most notably, Popper's 1945 book The Open Society and Its Enemies introduced Soros to the concept of an “open society,” a theme that would play a central role in Soros's thought and activities for the rest of his life.
The term “open society” was originally coined in 1932 by the French philosopher Henri Louis Bergson, to describe societies whose moral codes were founded upon “universal” principles seeking to enhance the welfare of all mankind―as opposed to “closed” societies that placed self-interest above any concern for other nations and cultures. Popper readily embraced this concept and expanded upon it. In his view, the open society was a place that permitted its citizens the right to criticize and change its institutions as they saw fit; he rejected the imposed intellectual conformity, central planning, and historical determinism of Marxist doctrine. By Popper's reckoning, a society was “closed”―and thus undesirable―if it assumed that it was in any way superior to other societies. Likewise, any belief system or individual claiming to be in possession of “ultimate truth” was an “enemy” of the open society as well. Popper viewed all knowledge as conjectural rather than certain, as evolving rather than fixed.
Thus, by logical extension, Popper did not share the American founders' confident assertion that certain truths were “self-evident,” and that certain rights―such as the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as referenced in the Declaration of Independence―were “unalienable” and thus not subject to doubt, because they had been granted to mankind by the ultimate authority, the “Creator.” We shall see that George Soros, as he grew to maturity, would likewise reject the founders' premise. Indeed Soros would harbor great disdain for modern-day American political figures who displayed unshakable confidence in their own culture's nobility, and who embraced the tenets of the Declaration and the U.S. Constitution as timeless, immutable truths. To Soros, “Popper's greatest contribution to philosophy” was his teaching that “the ultimate truth remains permanently beyond our reach.”
After graduating in 1952 from LSE, Soros joined the London brokerage firm Singer and Friedlander, where he became proficient in international arbitrage, which he defines as “buying securities in one country and selling them in another.” Four years later, he relocated to New York to work as a stock trader on Wall Street. Because Soros “did not particularly care for” the “commercial, crass” United States, he had no intention of settling permanently in America. Rather, he had devised a “five-year plan” to save some $500,000 and then return to Europe. His plan changed, however, when he found work as a portfolio manager at the investment bank Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder Inc., where his career―as if to fulfill the prophecy embedded in the family surname his father had adopted two decades earlier―soared to new heights.
In 1959 Soros moved to Greenwich Village, New York, where early stirrings of the Sixties counterculture were already being felt. In September 1960 he married Annaliese Witschak, who would be his wife until the couple divorced 23 years later. In 1961 Soros became a U.S. citizen, and two years later he and Annaliese had their first child, a son. In the Village, it is likely that Soros was exposed to the ideas of the prominent socialist Michael Harrington, who mingled with fellow radicals and socialists almost nightly at a tavern situated barely a stone's throw from Soros's residence. In 1962 Harrington wrote The Other America, a book lamenting the fact that a substantial “invisible” underclass continued to exist even as the country at large prospered, and suggesting that a “war on poverty” was needed to rectify this. President Lyndon Johnson read and admired the book, and its ideas greatly influenced his Great Society policies of government-imposed redistribution of wealth.
Another prominent Village personality of the era―the poet, New Left radical, and psychedelic-drug guru Allen Ginsberg―would eventually become a “lifelong friend” of Soros. Though Soros may not have formally met Ginsberg until around 1980―long after his years in the Village―the billionaire today credits Ginsberg for having opened his eyes to the benefits of drug legalization, which has been one of Soros's pet projects throughout his philanthropic career.
In 1969 Soros established the “Double Eagle Fund” for Bleichroeder with $4 million in capital, including $250,000 of his own money. Four years later, Soros and his assistant at Bleichroeder, Jim Rogers, set up a private partnership called Soros Fund Management. They subsequently changed the Double Eagle Fund's name to The Soros Fund. In 1979 they renamed it again―The Quantum Fund; its value grew to $381 million by 1980, and more than $1 billion by 1985.
Soros the Philanthropist
It was in 1979 that Soros began testing the proverbial waters of philanthropy. Five years later he launched, in the country of his birth, the first of his many Open Society Foundations―named after the concept advanced by Karl Popper―to help “build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens.” But it was not until 1987, the year he opened his Moscow office, that Soros began to disseminate truly large amounts of money to various groups and causes. “My spending rose from $3 million in 1987 to more than $300 million a year by 1992,” he said. During this period, Soros established a series of foundations throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia. He happily observed that because of his extraordinary wealth, major political figures “suddenly became very interested in seeing me…. [M]y influence increased.” Today Soros's Open Society Foundations are active in more than 70 countries around the world.
In 1993 Soros established the flagship of the Soros foundation network―the New York City-based Open Society Institute (OSI). While OSI's philanthropy extends to a number of nations around the world, it is chiefly devoted to injecting capital into American groups and causes. In his book Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism, Soros explains that the “open society” which he seeks to advance by means of philanthropy, “stands for freedom, democracy, rule of law, human rights, social justice, and social responsibility as a universal idea.” But of course, abstract concepts like these, draped in vestments of lofty rhetoric, can mean radically different things to different people.
Entrusted with the task of defining the foregoing terms for the Open Society Institute, and for articulating the Institute's agendas from the outset, was Aryeh Neier, whom Soros appointed to serve as president not only of OSI, but of the entire Soros Foundation Network. Thirty-four years earlier, Neier had created the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which became the largest and most important radical group of the 1960s. SDS aspired to overthrow America's democratic institutions, remake its government in a Marxist image, and undermine the nation's war efforts in Vietnam. (A particularly militant faction of SDS would later break away to form the Weather Underground, a notorious domestic terror organization with a Marxist-Leninist agenda.) Following his stint with SDS, Neier worked fifteen years for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)―including eight years as its national executive director. After that, he spent twelve years as executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), an organization he founded in 1978.
The Soros Agendas
Both the ACLU and HRW have long promoted one of the central contentions of Soros's Open Society Institute: the notion that America is institutionally an oppressive nation and a habitual violator of human rights both at home and abroad―indeed, the very antithesis of the type of “open society” Soros reveres. Consider first the ACLU, whose advisory board once included the former Weather Underground terrorist Bernardine Dohrn. The ACLU has opposed virtually all post-9/11 national security measures enacted by the U.S. government, depicting those measures not only as excessively harsh and invasive generally, but also as discriminatory against Muslims in particular. Moreover, the organization has filed numerous lawsuits seeking to limit the government's ability to locate, monitor, and apprehend terrorist operatives. It consistently depicts American society as one that is rife with intractable racial injustice. And it works tirelessly to protect illegal immigrants against “governmental abuse and discrimination.” These (and many other) ACLU activities and policy positions are entirely consistent with those of Aryeh Neier and George Soros, as evidenced by the fact that between 1999 and 2008, OSI awarded $8.69 million in grants to the ACLU Foundation.
Neier's other training ground, Human Rights Watch, has a long history of pointing an accusatory finger at America's allegedly numerous transgressions. Most notably, HRW has derided the U.S. war on terror as a foolhardy endeavor rooted in blindness to the realization that terrorism stems, in large measure, from America's failure “to promote fundamental rights around the world.” In a March 2007 speech, HRW executive director Kenneth Roth charged that the United States, by routinely “using torture and inhumane treatment” to deal with its foes, had “severely damaged its credibility when it comes to promoting human rights” in other nations. Between 2000 and 2008, the Open Society Institute awarded grants and other contributions to HRW that collectively totaled $6,386,477. Then, in September 2010, Soros announced that he would soon be giving HRW another $100 million. Notably, Soros himself once served on HRW's Europe and Central Asia Advisory Committee.
OSI's total assets today exceed $1.9 billion. Each year, the Institute awards scores of millions of dollars in grants to organizations that―like the ACLU and HRW―promote worldviews and objectives accordant with those of George Soros. Following is a sampling of the major agendas advanced by groups that Soros and OSI support financially. Listed under each category heading are a few OSI donees fitting that description.
Organizations that accuse America of violating the civil rights and liberties of many of its residents:
Organizations that depict America as a nation whose enduring racism must be counterbalanced by racial and ethnic preferences in favor of nonwhites:
Organizations that specifically portray the American criminal-justice system as racist and inequitable:
Organizations that call for massive social change, and for the recruitment and training of activist leaders to help foment that change:
Organizations that disparage capitalism while promoting a dramatic expansion of social-welfare programs funded by ever-escalating taxes:
Organizations that support socialized medicine in the United States:
Organizations that strive to move American politics to the left by promoting the election of progressive political candidates:
Organizations that promote leftist ideals and worldviews in the media and the arts:
In May 2011, the Media Research Center reported that from 2003-2001, Soros had spent more than $48 million "funding media properties, including the infrastructure of news -- journalism schools, investigative journalism and even industry organizations." Among the beneficiaries of Soros's money were such entities as: NBC, ABC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Columbia Journalism Review, ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity, the Center for Investigative Reporting, The Lens, the Columbia School of Journalism, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Organization of News Ombudsmen, National Public Radio, the Pacifica Foundation, The American Prospect Inc. (the owner and publisher of The American Prospect magazine), the Nation Institute, the Media Fund, the Independent Media Center, the Independent Media Institute, Media Matters For America, and Free Press. Below are some brief descriptions of a few of organizations:
Organizations that seek to inject the American judicial system with leftist values:
Organizations that advance leftist agendas by infiltrating churches and religious congregations:
Think tanks that promote leftist policies:
Organizations that promote open borders, mass immigration, a watering down of current immigration laws, increased rights and benefits for illegal aliens, and ultimately amnesty:
Organizations that oppose virtually all post-9/11 national-security measures enacted by the U.S. government:
Organizations that defend suspected anti-American terrorists and their abetters:
Organizations that depict virtually all American military actions as unwarranted and immoral:
Organizations that advocate America’s unilateral disarmament and/or a steep reduction in its military spending:
Organizations that promote radical environmentalism:
Groups in this category typically
oppose mining and logging initiatives, commercial fishing enterprises,
development and construction in wilderness areas, the use of coal, the use of
pesticides, and oil and gas exploration in “environmentally sensitive”
locations. Moreover, they claim that human industrial activity leads to
excessive carbon-dioxide emissions which, in turn, cause a potentially
cataclysmic phenomenon called “global warming.” Examples of such Soros donees
For All, the
Resources Defense Council, the
Alliance for Climate Protection,
of the Earth, and the
Another major recipient of Soros money is the Tides Foundation, which receives cash from all manner of donors―individuals, groups, and other foundations―and then funnels it to designated left-wing recipients. Having given more than $400 million to “progressive nonprofit organizations” since 2000, Tides is a heavy backer of environmental organizations, though its philanthropy extends also into many other areas.
George Soros presents himself as an environmentalist of the first order and is quick to condemn industrial corporations for allegedly trampling recklessly over the earth's ecosystems in pursuit of the almighty dollar. But in fact, Soros himself has proven to be quite willing to despoil Mother Nature in exchange for profits of his own. Consider, for example, his involvement in the Argentine beef industry, which environmentalists claim is responsible for massive levels of water pollution and deforestation. Argentina's biggest landowner is none other than George Soros, with some 500,000 hectares of land and 150,000 head of cattle to his name. Moreover, Soros is a part owner of Apex Silver Mines, which operates in a remote and ecologically sensitive region of Bolivia.
Organizations that oppose the death penalty in all circumstances:
In 2000 George Soros co-signed a
letter to President
Bill Clinton asking for a moratorium on the death penalty, on grounds that
it tended to be implemented disproportionately against black and Hispanic
Consistent with the billionaire's opposition to capital punishment, his Open Society Institute has given millions of dollars to anti-death penalty organizations such as New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, Witness to Innocence, Equal Justice USA, the Death Penalty Information Center, People of Faith against the Death Penalty, and the Fair Trial Initiative.
Organizations that promote modern-day feminism's core tenet―that America is fundamentally a sexist society where discrimination and violence against women have reached epidemic proportions:
Organizations that promote not only women's right to taxpayer-funded abortion on demand,128 but also political candidates who take that same position:
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.” 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.” Moreover, OSI is considered a “major” funder of the Coalition for an International Criminal Court, 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.
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.” “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.” 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." 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
Rev. William Sloan Coffin, Jr.,
Morton H. Halperin,
Kweisi Mfume, and
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.” 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.”
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.” Soros himself formerly sat on the DPA board of directors. 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.
Peter Schweizer, author of Do As I Say (Not As I Do), speculates on the possible reasons underlying Soros's support for drug legalization:
“One very possible answer is that he hopes to profit from them [drugs] once they become legal. He has been particularly active in South America, buying up large tracts of land and forging alliances with those in a position to mass-produce narcotics should they become legalized in the United States. He has also helped fund the Andean Council of Coca Leaf producers. Needless to say, this organization would stand to benefit enormously from the legalization of cocaine. He has also taken a 9 percent stake in Banco de Colombia, located in the Colombian drug capital of Cali. The Drug Enforcement Administration has speculated that the bank is being used to launder money and that Soros's fellow shareholders may be members of a major drug cartel.”
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
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.” Over a 9-year period, the Open Society Institute gave
$45 million to PDA.
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.” 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:
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.” 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.
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. So great was their influence, in fact, that on one occasion Soros quipped that “the former Soviet Empire is now called the Soros Empire.” 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. 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. 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. Soros further acknowledged in Congressional testimony that some of the missing Russian assets had made their way into his personal investment portfolio. House Banking Committee chairman Jim Leach characterized the entire sordid affair as “one of the greatest social robberies in human history.”
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.”
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. 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. 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.”
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 justifiable―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.” 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.”
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.” “A global open society,” Soros stressed, “requires affirmative action on a global scale.” 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.” “The United States cannot do whatever it wants,” he scolded. “... Our nation must concern itself with the well-being of the world.”
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.” And acknowledging that “[t]his awareness may not last long,” he said: “I am determined not to let the moment pass.”
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. 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, 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.”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. 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.”
Like Halperin, George Soros stridently counseled against
military intervention in Iraq, warning that an invasion “would actually be a
victory for the terrorists”―because the inevitable killing of “innocent
civilians” would give groups like
Qaeda “the kind of radicalization that they are looking for” in order to
justify “a vicious cycle of escalating violence.” “War is a false and misleading
metaphor in the context of combating terrorism,” said Soros. “Treating the
attacks of September 11 as crimes against humanity would have been more
appropriate. Crimes require police work, not military action.” Moreover, Soros
characterized the so-called “Bush doctrine” of preemptive military action
against those who may pose a threat to the U.S. an “atrocious proposition.”
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. 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.” 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. 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.”
Soros routinely condemned Bush for his “unabashed pursuit of self-interest”; for “equat[ing] freedom with American values”; for holding the “simplistic view” that “[w]e are right and they are wrong”; and for harboring a “false sense of certitude” that Americans had “right on our side.” Each of these transgressions, Soros explained, violated the “principles of open society, which recognize that we may be wrong.” “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.”
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.
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.” 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.” 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. “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.”
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.” 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.”
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.” 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.” “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.” “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.”
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.” 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. 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.”
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.” 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.
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” ―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.
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.”
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. Croatian president Tudjman was likewise an autocrat infamous for his brutality, extreme nationalism, indifference to civil rights, and manipulation of electoral processes. 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. 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...” 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.…”
Soros also funded Soviet Georgia's “Rose Revolution,” a
popular movement that forced Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze to resign in
November 2003. According to Britain's Globe and Mail, in February of that year
Soros “began laying the brick work for the toppling” of Shevardnadze. “That
month, funds from his Open Society Institute sent a … [Georgian] activist … to
Serbia to meet with members of the [resistance] movement and learn how they used
street demonstrations to topple dictator Slobodan Milosevic.” That summer, Soros
brought some of those Serbian activists to Georgia to train student activists
there. Meanwhile, a Soros-funded television station aired weekly broadcasts of
the documentary Bringing Down a Dictator, which presented a step-by-step account
of the overthrow of Milosevic and played a crucial role in training Georgian
insurgents. In the autumn months, Soros spent some $42 million preparing the
overthrow movement to mobilize. Then, in mid-November, large-scale
anti-government demonstrations spread like wildfire in most of Georgia's major
cities. Shevardnadze, able to read the proverbial writing on the wall, resigned
within a matter of days. Soros later told the Los Angeles Times, “I'm delighted
by what happened in Georgia, and I take great pride in having contributed to
it.” In November 2003, the editor of an English-language daily based in Georgia
said, “It's generally accepted public opinion here that Mr. Soros is the
person who planned Shevardnadze's overthrow.”
Notably, some people who worked for Soros' organizations―including two of the
Open Society Georgia Foundation's former executive directors―later assumed
influential positions in the new Georgian government.
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. 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.
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.” Asserting that he could “do a lot more about the issues I care about by changing the government than by pushing the issues,” Soros set out to “puncture the bubble of American supremacy.” 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 Act―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.” 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. 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).
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.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
Soros's “Shadow Party” Takes Shape
While Soros's 527s were clearly devoted to Democratic Party agendas and values, they publicly professed to be independent of any party affiliations. Their partisanship was somewhat shrouded in proverbial shadows. Gradually, a number of journalists began to make reference to the emergence of certain pro-Democrat “shadow organizations” that seemed geared toward circumventing McCain-Feingold's soft-money ban. In time, the term “Shadow Party” came into use.
George Soros set in motion the wheels of this Shadow Party when he gathered a team of political strategists, activists, and Democrat donors at his Long Island beach house on July 17, 2003, to discuss how President Bush could be defeated in the 2004 election. Attendees included such luminaries as OSI director Morton Halperin; former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta; former Clinton speechwriters Jeremy Rosner and Robert Boorstin; Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope; labor leader and former Clinton advisor Steve Rosenthal; EMILY's List founder and abortion-rights activist Ellen Malcolm; and major Democrat donors such as Lewis and Dorothy Cullman, Robert McKay, Robert Glaser, and Peter Lewis.238
The consensus was that voter turnout―particularly in 17 “swing” or “battleground” states―would be the key to unseating President Bush. Steve Rosenthal and Ellen Malcolm―CEO and president, respectively, of a newly formed but poorly funded voter-registration group called America Coming Together (ACT) ―suggested that voters in those swing states should be recruited and mobilized as soon as possible. Agreeing, Soros told the pair that he personally would give ACT $10 million to help maximize its effectiveness. A few other attendees also pledged to give the fledgling group large sums of money: Soros's billionaire friend Peter Lewis, chairman of the Progressive Corporation, promised to give $10 million; Robert Glaser, founder and CEO of RealNetworks, promised $2 million; Rob McKay, president of the McKay Family Foundation, committed $1 million; and benefactors Lewis and Dorothy Cullman pledged $500,000.
By early 2004, the administrative core of George Soros's Shadow Party was in place. It consisted of seven ostensibly “independent” nonprofit groups―all but one of which were headquartered in Washington, DC. In a number of cases, these groups shared one another's finances, directors, and corporate officers; occasionally they even shared office space. The seven groups were:
1) America Coming Together (ACT): Jump-started by Soros's $10 million grant, ACT in 2004 ran what it called “the largest voter-contact program in history,” with more than 1,400 full-time paid canvassers contacting potential voters door-to-door and by phone.
2) Center For American Progress (CAP): This entity was established to serve as a think tank promoting leftist ideas and policy initiatives. Soros, enthusiastic about the Center's potential, pledged in July 2003 to donate up to $3 million to help get the project off the ground. From the outset, CAP's leadership featured a host of former high-ranking officials from the Clinton administration. Hillary Clinton predicted that the organization would provide “some new intellectual capital” with which to “build the 21st-century policies that reflect the Democrat Party's values.” George Soros and Morton Halperin together selected former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta to serve as president of CAP. Podesta said his goal was to develop CAP as a “think tank on steroids,” featuring “a message-oriented war room” that “will send out a daily briefing to refute the positions and arguments of the right.”
3) America Votes: This national coalition coordinated the efforts of many get-out-the-vote organizations and their thousands of contributing activists. Soros's support for America Votes would continue well past 2004. Indeed he would donate $2.15 million to this coalition in the 2006 election cycle, another $1.25 million in advance of the 2008 elections, and yet another $1.25 million in 2010.
4) Media Fund: Describing itself as “the largest media-buying organization supporting a progressive message” in the United States, this group produced and strategically placed political ads in the print, broadcast, and electronic media.
5) Joint Victory Campaign 2004 (JVC): This fundraising entity focused on collecting contributions and then disbursing them chiefly to America Coming Together and the Media Fund. In 2004 alone, JVC channeled $19.4 million to the former, and $38.4 million to the latter. Soros personally gave JVC more than $12 million that year.
6) Thunder Road Group (TRG): This political consultancy coordinated strategy for the Media Fund, America Coming Together, and America Votes. Its duties included strategic planning, polling, opposition research, covert operations, and public relations.
7) MoveOn.org: This California-based entity was the only one of the Shadow Party's core groups that was not a new startup operation. Launched in September 1998, MoveOn is a Web-based political network that organizes online activists around specific issues, raises money for Democratic candidates, generates political ads, and is very effective at recruiting young people to support Democrats. In November 2003, Soros pledged to give MoveOn $5 million to help its cause.
According to Ellen Malcolm of America Coming Together (ACT), the financial commitment which Soros made to these Shadow Party groups in 2003 “was a signal to potential donors that he had looked at what was going on and that this was pretty exciting, and that he was going to stand behind it, and it was the real deal.” As Byron York observed, “After Soros signed on, contributions started pouring in.” ACT and the Media Fund alone took in some $200 million―including $20 million from Soros alone. This type of money was unprecedented in American politics.
Harold Ickes, who served as White House deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House, had a hand in creating every Shadow Party core group except MoveOn. He was also entrusted with the vital task of making these organizations function as a cohesive entity. In 2004, Democratic strategist Harold Wolfson suggested that outside of the official campaign of presidential candidate John Kerry, Ickes “is the most important person in the Democratic Party today.”
In addition to its seven core members, the Shadow Party also came to include at least another 30 well-established leftwing activist groups and labor unions that participated in the America Votes coalition. Among the better-known of these were ACORN; the AFL-CIO; the AFSCME; the American Federation of Teachers; the Association of Trial Lawyers of America; the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund; EMILY's List; the Human Rights Campaign; the League of Conservation Voters; the NAACP; NARAL Pro-Choice America; the National Education Association; People for the American Way; Planned Parenthood; the Service Employees International Union; and the Sierra Club.
New Mexico's then-governor, Democrat Bill Richardson, observed that “these groups” were “crucial” to the anti-Bush effort. “Now that campaign-finance reform is law,” he said, “organizations like these have become the replacement for the national Democratic Party.” And no donor was more heavily invested in these organizations―or in defeating President Bush―than George Soros, who contributed $27,080,105 to pro-Democrat 527s during the 2004 election cycle. The second leading donor was the billionaire insurance entrepreneur Peter Lewis ($23,997,220), followed by Hollywood producer Stephen Bing ($13,952,682) and Golden West Financial Corporation founders Herbert and Marion Sandler ($13,007,959).
Failure and Resiliency: Birth of The Democracy Alliance
When President Bush won re-election in 2004, George Soros was devastated; his massive financial investments and herculean organizing efforts had all gone for naught. Adding insult to injury, the hated Republicans had retained control of both houses of Congress. As Soros contemplated what course of action he ought to pursue next, the answer came to him―somewhat unexpectedly―in the form of Democrat political operative Rob Stein, former chief of staff to Commerce Secretary Ron Brown during the Clinton administration. For the preceding two years, Stein had been busy devising a strategy by which Democrats might reclaim supremacy in the executive and legislative branches of government. He began working on this strategy shortly after the Republicans had gained eight House seats and two Senate seats in the 2002 midterm elections. Lamenting that he was “living in a one-party [Republican] country,” Stein at that point resolved to study the conservative movement and determine why it was winning the political battle. After a year of analysis, he concluded that a few influential, wealthy family foundations―most notably Scaife, Bradley, Olin, and Coors―had spearheaded the creation of a $300 million network of politically influential organizations. Stein featured these facts in a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation―titled “The Conservative Message Machine Money Matrix”―which mapped out, in painstaking detail, the conservative movement's networking strategies and funding sources.
Next, Stein set out to show his presentation―mostly in private meetings―to political leaders, activists, and prospective big-money donors of the left. He hoped to inspire them to join his crusade to build a new organization―a financial clearinghouse to be called the Democracy Alliance (DA)―dedicated to offsetting the efforts of conservative funders and injecting new life into the progressive movement. At each presentation, Stein asked the viewer to pledge that he or she would keep confidential the substance of the proceedings, so as to give the project a chance to coalesce and gain some momentum without excessive public scrutiny.
Stein officially filed DA's corporate registration in the District of Columbia in January 2005. By that point, he had shown his PowerPoint presentation to several hundred people. Stein recalls that during those sessions, he consistently observed “an unbelievable frustration” by big Democrat donors who felt hopelessly unconnected to one another even as they longed to be part of a strategic coalition that could work collaboratively and cohesively. This was particularly true of George Soros, thus it was most significant that Soros quickly and enthusiastically embraced Stein's concept. In April 2005, Soros brought together 70 likeminded, carefully vetted, fellow millionaires and billionaires in Phoenix, Arizona, to discuss Stein's ideas and expeditiously implement a plan of action. Most of those in attendance agreed that the conservative movement represented “a fundamental threat to the American way of life.” And, like Soros, a considerable number of them looked favorably on Stein's analysis and concept. Thus was born the Democracy Alliance.
DA members, called “partners,” include individuals and organizations alike. Partnership in the Alliance is by invitation-only. These partners pay an initial $25,000 fee, and $30,000 in yearly dues thereafter. They also must give at least $200,000 annually to groups which the Alliance endorses. Donors metaphorically “pour” these requisite donations into one or more of what Rob Stein refers to as DA's “four buckets” of fundraising: ideas, media, leadership training, and civic engagement. The money is then apportioned to approved left-wing groups from each respective category.
The Democracy Alliance is known to consist of at least 100 donor-partners but historically has been quite secretive regarding their identities. Nevertheless, the Capital Research Center has managed to compile the names of some of the more significant current and former DA partners (in addition to George Soros and Rob Stein). A large percentage of them have significant ties to Soros that extend well beyond their shared membership in the Democracy Alliance. Among these partners are the following:
No grants were pledged at the Democracy Alliance's April 2005 gathering in Phoenix, but at an Atlanta meeting three months later, DA partners pledged $39 million―about a third of which came directly from George Soros and Peter Lewis. Because the Alliance has largely refrained from providing information about its giving, only a small percentage of its donees are known to the public. Thus it is impossible to determine precisely how much money DA has disbursed since its inception. Most estimates, though, place the figure at more than $100 million. One source―Alliance member Simon Rosenberg―claimed in August 2008 that DA had already “channeled hundreds of millions of dollars into progressive organizations.” Below are the names of a number of DA's known donees―and in certain cases the sums they have received from the Alliance. Again, the Capital Research Center was instrumental in identifying these donees, many of whom have financial and ideological ties to Soros and the Open Society Institute that long predate their connections to the Democracy Alliance.