- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

A Virginia-based watchdog organization has asked the Federal Election Commission whether billionaire currency trader George Soros, who has spent millions in a bid to prevent President Bush’s re-election, failed to fully disclose expenses during an anti-Bush speaking tour in several battleground states.

The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), in a formal complaint, said Mr. Soros reported expenditures for two-page newspaper ads he bought in swing states and for mailings with a similar theme in several other states, but did not — as required by law — report expenses for travel, public relations and the other related tour costs.

“Soros is a hypocrite,” said NLPC President Peter Flaherty. “First, he bankrolled the groups that lobbied for passage of McCain-Feingold, but now he’s pouring millions through the law’s loopholes. And he has apparently violated the Federal Election Campaign Act by not disclosing the substantial sums he is spending on this speaking tour.

“We expect a complete, expeditious and fair investigation of our complaint,” Mr. Flaherty said.

The NLPC also named in the complaint two nonprofit organizations that hosted Mr. Soros’ anti-Bush speeches, the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia and the Metropolitan Club of Columbus, Ohio. Mr. Soros spoke before other nonprofit organizations in other cities.

The NLPC, which promotes ethics in public life through research, education and legal action, organized the “Soros Truth Squad,” led by NLPC Policy Director John Carlisle, which followed Mr. Soros on his one-month speaking tour to inform the public about Mr. Soros’ background and motivation.

Mr. Soros, who has spent millions on advertising and voter-registration drives to defeat Mr. Bush, announced his speaking tour in September, saying he would visit a dozen U.S. cities. He also said he would mail at least 2 million brochures in an effort to persuade recipients to vote against Mr. Bush and would establish a Web page to answer questions from undecided voters.

The Hungarian native, now a U.S. citizen, also ran two-page centerfold ads in the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers, targeting Republicans and influential business leaders in an effort to intensify his attacks on Mr. Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq.

“The situation in Iraq is dire because we are damned if we stay and we are even more damned if we pull out,” Mr. Soros said during a press conference in Washington to announce the tour. “We have got to find an orderly exit. And I think [Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry] is much better situated than President Bush, and his approach, which is that you have to find a political solution and you can’t do it only by military means, is the right answer.”

Mr. Soros has contributed heavily to liberal-leaning “527” organizations, which are tax-exempt groups that engage in political activities, often through unlimited soft-money contributions. They are not regulated by the FEC unless they have a political action committee, creating a soft-money loophole.

FEC regulation limits campaign contributions to $2,000 per candidate from a person annually and political action committees to a maximum of $5,000 from a person annually. A number of 527 groups have poured tens of millions of unregulated dollars into efforts to defeat Mr. Bush.

Mr. Soros’ 12-city speaking tour began in Pennsylvania and ended last week in Washington, with a speech at the National Press Club, during which he accused Mr. Bush of making the country less safe by the “colossal blunder” of invading Iraq. He accused the president of being “incapable of recognizing mistakes.”

Earlier this year, the NLPC was successful in getting a $21,000 fine levied against two leadership political action committees associated with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. In another NLPC complaint, the FEC said Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, illegally failed to disclose large loans to her campaign just prior to her 2000 Senate election.

Last year, a complaint filed by the NLPC resulted in a conciliation agreement under which the Rev. Al Sharpton had to pay a $5,500 fine for filing disclosure documents late. The FEC also ruled in a separate NLPC complaint that Mr. Sharpton had to return the $100,000 he received in federal matching funds.

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