Liberal financier George Soros last month gave $1 million to a Democratic super PAC, breaking a silence from the Democratic heavy hitter and marking a willingness to give to the unlimited-money vessels, which many liberals despise, records released Friday showed.
The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, a public employees union, also gave just under $1 million.
It marks the ramping up for a group that was established in 2010 by prominent Democrats, including Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, but has not yet run any ads. Payroll records suggest that American Bridge has quietly been carrying out a significant research operation, lying in wait and digging up dirt to pounce on Mitt Romney late in the race.
It has paid $3.7 million in salaries since March 2011, including $310,000 to the Democratic National Committee’s former research director, Shana Daly.
The super PAC also has a 501(c)(4) nonprofit arm — a setup that mirrors exactly the setup of conservative big-money groups like FreedomWorks and American Crossroads, which liberals have demonized as corrupting and secret vehicles.
Super PACs can accept donations of any size, but must report which person or organization they come from. Nonprofit groups don’t have to report their donations, and can run politically-tinged ads, up to certain limits. When you add the two together, a nonprofit can give to a super PAC, which leads to a dead-end disclosure with the effect of hiding millions of dollars.
American Bridge appears to have done exactly that, with $800,000 in donations to the American Bridge super PAC attributed to simply, well, American Bridge, the nonprofit.
The advocacy group did not immediately return a request for comment.
Like the more official Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action, it has not had success in attracting large numbers of major donors. It has 85 donors, about 20 of which gave $200,000 or more.
Among top donors are the unlikely source of an oil executive, Lee Fikes; a self-described art historian, Agnes Gung; and Anne Earhardt, an investor and oil heir.
Painting a picture of a small network of major liberal donors this year, at least 11 of the same names populate both American Bridge and Priorities USA donor lists, including Nancy and Reiner Beeuwkes of Massachusetts, who gave a combined $400,000; Ms. Earhart, who also gave $250,000 to Priorities USA; and the Service Employees International Union, which gave $1 million to Priorities and $100,000 to American Bridge.
Of course, remaining undisclosed is how much money Mr. Soros and others may have given to American Bridge’s nonprofit side, and how much money they have in the bank.