Billionaire Soros giving $2M to Democratic groups

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By JACK GILLUM, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Billionaire financier George Soros is pledging $2 million to political groups supporting progressive causes and President Barack Obama's re-election, part of an effort by liberal donors to counterbalance large sums of money flowing to Republican candidates.

Soros' contributions include $1 million to the advocacy group America Votes and another $1 million pledge to American Bridge 21st Century, an outside "super" political committee supportive of Obama's campaign. So far, GOP super PACs have outraised their Democratic counterparts by tens of millions of dollars.

The donations, announced in an email to supporters Monday night, signal that liberal financial heavyweights are becoming more involved in the costly presidential campaign. Some super PACs, like the Romney-supportive Restore Our Future, have already spent more than $50 million on television ads.

"As he has in the past, George is focusing his political giving in 2012 on grassroots organizing and holding conservatives accountable for the flawed policies they promote," Soros adviser Michael Vachon said in an email. Soros donated millions during the 2004 election to liberal groups opposing President George W. Bush.

Soros' contributions are a shot in the arm for groups like American Bridge, which has spent $4 million so far researching and tracking Republican candidates. Soros has previously supported America Votes, a Washington-based organization that helps nationwide progressive groups with political organizing.

"Thanks to investments by progressive leaders like Mr. Soros, we have been able to build a cutting-edge organization that we will continue to build upon in order to keeping providing effective and efficient services to the progressive movement," said David Brock, American Bridge's founder.

Super PACs supporting Republican candidates and Mitt Romney in particular have pledged to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to compete against Obama's sprawling donor base. American Crossroads, a group founded by former Bush adviser Karl Rove, and its nonprofit arm have already raised a combined $100 million.

Obama, meanwhile, has raked in $147 million in contributions through April 30. That doesn't count millions in additional contributions to the Democratic National Committee, which is helping Obama's re-election. Republicans have pointed to Obama's powerful, incumbent fundraising advantage for why GOP super PACs — they have largely spent cash on pricey television ads — are necessary to provide balance in political discourse.

This presidential election is this first in which billionaires are given the green light to spend unlimited sums of cash on groups supporting their favored candidates, thanks to a handful of federal court cases that stripped away campaign-finance regulations.

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