It was big news on December 10 that the Supreme Court had upheld new restrictions on certain “soft-money” contributions to political campaigns. But of the three evening news programs, only the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather noted that there is a big loophole in the law that the court has endorsed. Reporter Wyatt Andrews said, “Anybody who thinks this ruling ends soft money in politics is wrong.” On the left, he said MoveOn.org is using soft money against Bush, while on the right the Club for Growth is using soft money against Howard Dean.
Andrews didn’t mention that, so far at least, the political left has a big advantage in this area, primarily because some billionaire liberals are putting millions of dollars into groups like MoveOn.org and ACT, or Americans Coming Together. One, George Soros, is a billionaire liberal who has pledged $25 million to defeat Bush, and who has compared the president to the Nazis. Another billionaire leftist, Peter Lewis, an advocate and user of hard drugs, has promised another $12 million to this effort. Republican chairman Marc Racicot says their goal is to raise over $400 million to defeat the president.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that this is part of the Democratic Party’s strategy to direct money to groups that will coordinate their attacks on Bush. What makes the story even more interesting is that liberal groups behind so-called campaign finance reform have been noticeably silent about this loophole in the law. For this reason, Republican chairman Ed Gillespie has written to these groups asking how much money they have received from Soros.
For his part, Soros wrote a column for the Washington Post explaining that he has been an advocate of campaign finance reform for almost a decade. But he is contributing to MoveOn.org and ACT because he wants to further “the common interest” and generate debate over Bush’s policies. Personally, he claims he doesn’t seek any political influence for himself. In fact, Soros has always been close to the Democratic Party, has raised money for Howard Dean and has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to liberal and left-wing groups.
Not everybody on the left is excited about this. Writing for the Center for Research on Globalization, Walt Contreras Sheasby says that Soros’ monetary influence “is one of those hushed secrets inside the left?” He says Soros is laying the groundwork for a Howard Dean-Wesley Clark ticket, and that Soros “would have a great deal of influence over a Dean-Clark Administration, but particularly in the international context.”
In another campaign-finance-related scandal, Rep. Charlie Norwood chaired a hearing in June 2002 on whether the National Education Association, another virtual arm of the Democratic Party, has been spending tens of millions of dollars in tax-exempt funds on political activities without reporting those activities. One of the witnesses was NEA critic Mark Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation. The NEA has subsequently confirmed that the IRS is now investigating the organization’s financial affairs and political activities.