When billionaire Michael Bloomberg announced he would sink $100 million into helping Democrats capture Florida, he briefly did what had been viewed as impossible: He took the focus of the right’s wrath off George Soros.
Mr. Soros has long been viewed as the embodiment of the left-wing megabucks donor, but as Mr. Bloomberg’s donation showed, he isn’t the only big-spending progressive in town, said Scott Walter, president of the conservative Capital Research Center.
“George Soros is certainly one of the most influential powerful men on the planet — an absolute pillar of the left in all things nonprofit and political,” Mr. Walter said. “However, people need to understand that the left has multiple Soroses.”
In terms of individual contributions to federal campaigns, neither Mr. Bloomberg nor Mr. Soros leads the pack in 2020. That distinction belongs to San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, who so far has sunk $54 million into Democratic candidates and committees, according to Open Secrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics.
In fact, Mr. Soros only ranks 24th among Democrat and Republican donors, with $8 million in contributions during the 2020 election cycle. That list, however, only considers one source of campaign funding.
His total election spending to date approaches $60 million when donations to his Democracy PAC from his Fund for Policy Reform and Soros Management Fund are included, which the Washington Free Beacon reported already exceeds his previous high of $22 million in 2016.
The Democracy PAC’s donations include $8.5 million to the Senate Majority PAC; $5 million to the Win Justice PAC, founded by the SEIU and Planned Parenthood Votes, which seeks to engage infrequent left-tilting voters; and $1.75 million to Color of Change, part of the Black Lives Matter network.
“He is certainly pouring as much money as ever through both nonprofit channels and just hard political giving,” said Mr. Walter. “I can say that George Soros is spending a great deal of money to elect Democrats.”
Mr. Walter divides the ocean of political giving into three “rivers”: Hard money, meaning direct donations to candidates; independent expenditure committees, also known as 501c4 nonprofits; and 501c3 nonprofits that are barred from endorsing candidates but not from making donations to 501c4 organizations.
The 501c3 avenue, which includes cause-related advocacy groups such as the National Rifle Association on the right and the Center for American Progress on the left, “dwarfs the other two,” with left-tilting groups outraising right-tilting organizations by 3-to-1, he said.
What’s more, a 501c3 also may engage in “nonpartisan” voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts, but only the left side of the philanthropy aisle is taking advantage of that opportunity.
“The left does over $100 million a cycle just in voter registration and get-out-the-vote, because most people don’t know that any charity is legally allowed to register voters and to bus them to the polls — as long as it’s done in a nonpartisan fashion,” Mr. Walter said with a laugh.
The Open Society Foundations network spent more than $700 million in 2018, but not far behind were the Arabella Advisors network and the Tides Foundation network, with about $600 million each.
“Steyer is enormous in this, and the Arabella Advisors empire is enormous in this,” Mr. Walter said. “The Tides empire is enormous in this. The left is Goliath, especially in the large nonprofit sector. I’m not taking anything away from Soros’s bigness and badness, but there are more.”
Prosecutors’ races in spotlight
Both Mr. Steyer and Mr. Bloomberg sought unsuccessfully the Democratic presidential nomination. Mr. Bloomberg also has donated to groups that pay off the debts of convicted felons in Florida so that they may vote in the election, prompting calls for a federal investigation into whether such payments violate campaign-finance laws.
Certainly Mr. Soros is no Trump fan: He called the president an “impostor and a con man and a would-be dictator” in 2017. He took on his critics in an August interview with an Italian publication La Repubblica that coincided with his 90th birthday.
“[T]here is an actual, genuine international conspiracy against me,” he said. “So, when I am challenging the same issues for an Open Society throughout the world, like discrimination, racial exclusion, totalitarian regimes, I am not conspiring, I am openly bringing forward the mission of my life.”
Much of his attention in recent years has focused on his effort to elect progressive district attorneys at the local level, an initiative he continues to fund in 2020.
His Illinois Justice & Public Safety PAC sunk $2.1 million into Cook County prosecutor Kim Foxx’s Democratic primary race, which she won in March, even though she was outspent by challenger Bill Conway, son of a billionaire investor, by about 3-to-1.
Another Soros-backed candidate, former law professor Monique Worrell, won the Aug. 18 Democratic primary for Orlando state attorney, pulling off the upset over a former judge and chief assistant state attorney.
The big kahuna comes in November, when Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey faces George Gascon, a left-wing former San Francisco District Attorney who moved to Los Angeles to challenge her.
The campaigns have become especially heated in the wake of protests and rioting following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
“No longer content with destroying law and order in San Francisco, Gascón and his benefactor George Soros aimed for the largest District Attorney office in the country for takeover,” said the California Globe in a Sept. 21 article.
Meanwhile, the Open Society Foundations announced in July it would invest $220 million in “emerging organizations and leaders building power in Black communities across the country,” including funding cities that “reimagine public safety.”