Amid Soros Spending Spree, ‘Campaign Finance Reform’ Evaporates as Liberal Cause
The financier gave more than $178 million to Democrats in the latest election cycle and $0 to Republicans, and the left’s cries to ‘get big money out of politics’ have gone suddenly silent.
The largest donor in the 2020-22 political cycle was a 92-year-old who spent more than double the next-largest giver.
George Soros gave $178,710,771, of which $178,700,771 went to Democrats and $0 went to Republicans, a nonpartisan website that tracks money in politics, OpenSecrets.org, says. A search of the Federal Elections Commission database lists, by my count, $179,875,512.57 in contributions by Mr. Soros over the two-year period, after deducting those attributed to Alexander George Soros, a son of George Soros.
Whether it was $178 million or $179 million, it’s a lot of money, especially in an election where party control of the Senate and House was determined by narrow margins. No wonder the Democratic push for “campaign finance reform” and to “get big money out of politics” has gone suddenly silent.
If a Republican donor like, say, the late Sheldon Adelson had spent that sort of money to buy Republican control of the Senate, you can bet the dollar amounts and the donor’s name would be all over the front pages of the Washington Post and New York Times, with the editorial pages yammering on about the grave threat to democracy posed by plutocrats.
Aside from the abrupt disappearance of “campaign finance reform” from the Democratic political agenda, what else might the Soros phenomenon explain? In a May 2022 appearance at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Mr. Soros said of Ukraine: “We must give them all the support that they ask for.” The U.S. has committed more than $24.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration.
It’s certainly possible that a Democratic president and Congress would have provided that sort of support without Mr. Soros advocating for it, but the fact that the war in Ukraine is the no. 1 priority of the party’s no. 1 donor is the sort of thing, again, that if it were a Republican donor and a Republican president, the press would be all over.
Not that Mr. Soros has been afraid to clash publicly with President Biden on occasion. He tweeted out opposition to “Biden’s plan to hire thousands of new police officers.”
Alexander Soros has a social media feed featuring photos of himself with Democratic congressional leaders such as Hakeem Jeffries and Charles Schumer. If it were a Republican megadonor’s son, the press would be full of complaints about “buying access.”
With Mr. Soros, though, there’s a media blackout, with the exception of conservative outlets such as the Washington Examiner and Fox News Channel. Absent is any investigative curiosity about how Mr. Soros’s political giving might intersect with his investment positions.
Also, the $178 million or $179 million sum is just federal political money; it doesn’t even count charitable giving channeled through the Open Society Foundations, some of which goes to organizations — such as J Street, the Tides Center, and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund — that advance policies and principles highly complementary to the political giving.
My point isn’t that Mr. Soros should be prevented from participating in American politics or distributing charitable money. Far from it. There may be issues, such as criminal justice reform or freedom in China, where he’s advancing worthwhile goals. On issues where his influence is less constructive — or actually counterproductive — his opponents would be better off not trying to stifle him or constrain him with regulations. Instead, they’d be best served by exposing his influence and by investing, at his scale, in competing ideas.
Conservative funders value thrift and bang-for-the-buck spending, and understandably so. There has been, as well, a lot of talk, some of it overstated, about how low-dollar Internet fundraising has made megadonors such as Mr. Soros less important. Money alone can’t buy an election outcome, as Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer found in 2020.
As the 2024 election cycle gets into swing, though, the news about Mr. Soros and 2022 is a reminder of the size of the investments that are being made in American politics. Will another after-the-fact column be written in 2025 about how George Soros bought Mr. Biden re-election to the White House and Democrats control of Congress? Or will a Republican or two step up to counteract the Soros influence by investing at Soros scale?
Mr. Stoll was a founding partner in the New York Sun and its former managing editor.