Billionaire Foe of Bush Getting Democrats Giddy

Billionaire Foe of Bush Getting Democrats Giddy
Posted by CN Staff on June 04, 2004 at 13:45:39 PT
By Dick Polman, Inquirer Staff Writer
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer 
Washington -- The ballroom was abuzz. Several thousand liberals jockeyed for the best seats, balancing their bagels and fruit plates and pamphlets, chattering excitedly about the guru's impending arrival, as hundreds more gave up on getting a good view and consigned themselves to the back wall.Yes, Santa Claus was coming to town.
In the world of liberal politics, which is a giddy world in this season of Republican misfortune, Santa Claus is a 73-year-old Jewish Hungarian immigrant with a wavy silver mane and oversized spectacles who has decided to slide down the chimney and dispense goodies to the grousing critics of the Bush administration.So far, those goodies total roughly $10 million - and that's chump change for billionaire investor George Soros, who can always dig into his deep pockets for more. His sudden generosity to liberal groups may help explain why he was tapped to deliver a major speech here yesterday, at a big anti-Bush conference sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future; after all, he has already shelled out $300,000 to that group.It certainly wasn't because he has any gift for rhetorical cadence ("This uh, uh, uh, uh, um, Bush doctrine is, uh, really quite an atrocious proposition"), or any instinct for soaring oratory ("There is a two-way interaction between your perception of the world and reality"). Basically, the attendees were simply grateful that, in his words, "I have put my money where my mouth is."They were grateful that "the greatest money manager in the world" (as described by Institutional Investor magazine) has decided that his life's mission is to defeat President Bush, a passion triggered by his opposition to the war in Iraq. And he sent a frisson of pleasure through his listeners when he declared, in his heavy accent, "I personally believe there will be a change of regime in this country," an event that presumably would signal the arrival of what he modestly calls "the Soros doctrine."Soros is a major reason John Kerry has been able to compete this year with the more lavishly financed Bush machine. Soros has helped bankroll a slew of new anti-Bush groups that are stoking liberal fervor nationwide, and essentially these groups can rake in whatever money Soros wants to give as long as they operate as independent "issue" shops, without any guidance from the Kerry camp.In other words, George Soros is a liberal sugar daddy - demonstrating that even the Democrats, who typically decry the influence of big money in politics, are willing to roll out the welcome mat for a big-money player. That's why conservatives are complaining that the Democrats are hypocrites. But what they're really angry about is the fact that Soros, with a personal fortune of $12 billion, has provided the anti-Bush forces with a big megaphone.He's hardly the first rich benefactor in modern politics, however. Back in 1972, millionaire insurance executive Clement Stone bestowed $2 million (roughly $9 million in today's money) on Republican President Richard Nixon, because, in Stone's words, "All I want to do is change the world."But, for Republicans, that's ancient history. They don't like Soros' "doctrine," which is basically the argument that America should stress international cooperation rather than pursue world supremacy. They point out that he has financed campaigns to legalize marijuana. They also call him "an arch-typical limousine liberal," a prisoner of "massive egomania," a "dangerous man," and (as one GOP-friendly Web site has called him), "a Hungarian-born descendent of Shylock."They don't mention that he started giving money away in 1979 - funding black students in South Africa. But Soros is also a useful foil for the GOP, because he does tend to utter impolitic remarks, as donors and celebrities who lack political experience are wont to do.Yesterday, Soros appeared to equate the Iraqi prison-abuse scandal with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. ("There is, I'm afraid, that connection with those two events, because the way President Bush conducted the war on terror converted us from victims into perpetrators.")That kind of stuff is catnip for the Bush team, which quickly released a statement demanding to know whether Kerry and Hillary Clinton agreed with that. Neither commented by late yesterday. The GOP invoked Clinton's name because the Democratic senator from New York had introduced Soros yesterday. Last year, Clinton helped found a liberal think tank that received a big chunk of seed money from Soros."He's using his resources to make sure that his opinions are heard in the marketplace, and that is in the great American tradition!" she declared yesterday, prompting a thousand nodding heads.Actually, campaign-finance watchdogs contend that Soros is gaming the system.Larry Noble, who directs a group that wants to curb big money in politics, contended by phone yesterday that, under the new federal laws, Soros is acting illegally. Noble said that since these "issue" groups were so blatantly anti-Bush, they should be barred from accepting any donations above $5,000 - just like any campaign committee. As Noble noted, however, the Federal Election Commission has already decided not to police large donors this year.So did Soros basically purchase his speaking gig? No way, said Robert Borosage, cohost of the liberal conference; Soros was chosen "because he's a man of such prestige."In any case, liberals in the trenches see the fuss about Soros as irrelevant. They figure that if Bush can get big money from the oil and pharmaceutical interests, why shouldn't they have Soros?As Hillary Clinton argued, Soros has the same right to spend his money "as all the people on the right have done for the last 50 years!"And the Republicans appear to acknowledge that. They're busy setting up their own "issue" groups, in the hopes of luring their own sugar daddies. Even as they're trying to beat George Soros, they're planning to join him.Complete Article: America Votes: Billionaire Foe of Bush Getting Democrats GiddySource: Philadelphia Inquirer (PA)Author: Dick Polman, Inquirer Staff WriterPublished: June 4, 2004Copyright: 2004 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.Contact: Inquirer.Letters phillynews.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Soros Foundation Network' Projects Include Overthrowing a Government Criticizes President Bush in Anti-War Ads
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