CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer acted concerned, in a September 13th commentary, that rich people were abusing the campaign laws by funneling money to so-called 527 groups. Schieffer complained that, “One of the President’s strongest supporters, Texas oil man Boone Pickens, had given the Swift Boat group a half million dollars” and “two other Bush supporters” chipped in more than $200,000 each. Then Schieffer added in passing that George Soros is a billionaire “financing millions of dollars of attack ads against President Bush?” Schieffer called these examples of “how the big money boys on both sides can find ways around the campaign laws and do it with the blessings of Congress.”
It is apparent that what prompted Schieffer’s concern was the less than one million dollars he identified as going to the Swift Boat ads against Kerry. But based on his own rather vague figure of “millions,” the Soros money dwarfs anything spent by the Swift Boat vets. Indeed, it’s much worse than he indicated. The members of the CBS News political unit had already done a compilation, based on a report in the Boston Phoenix, of what was called the “Dems’ Dirty Dozen,” who were using the 527s against Bush. At that time, according to this account, Soros alone had spent more than $12 million on 527s. Soros associate Peter Lewis had spent over $14 million on pro-Democrat 527s.
The Boston Phoenix article by David S. Bernstein noted that “more than $15 million of political advertising has run in the past three months, most of it bashing Bush, most of it in key battleground states?without costing the Kerry campaign a dime?it’s probably a big reason why John Kerry entered July in a dead heat in the polls despite the tens of millions of dollars spent on negative advertising against him?and one of the reasons why Bush’s favorability ratings are at an all-time low.”
Bernstein said that today’s “527 fever” is “predominantly liberal” and reflects what one political figure calls a “privatization of political activity.” Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson also wrote about this phenomenon, saying that the privatization of the Democratic Party was a positive development. And he thanked Soros for doing it.
Meyerson rejected suggestions from Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert that Soros was getting money from mysterious foreign sources possibly connected to the illegal drug cartels. Soros, who favors legalization of hard drugs, strongly denied that connection and threatened to sue Hastert for suggesting it.
We don’t know where Soros gets his money. We do know he runs an unregulated hedge fund that is based outside the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission. We do know that Soros is reported to have invested in the narco-state of Colombia when the Drug Enforcement Administration was warning of drug money being laundered in the banks down there. We also know he was convicted of insider trading in France. Bob Schieffer should do a commentary on that.