He’s the billionaire every Republican feared in 2004 and in 2008, deploying his riches for the singular purpose of getting rid of George W. Bush. George Soros succeeded in the last cycle, helping to push Barack Obama across the finish line while bolstering down-ticket Democrats as well. Until now, Soros has been very quiet about his intentions, and Chris Cillizza reports that has some on Team Obama worried:
Soros cut a $1 million check to America Votes, a group formed during the 2004 election that focuses on grassroots organizing and advocacy, and another $1 million to American Bridge, a research operation run by David Brock. …
But, it may be where Soros and the Democracy Alliance are not giving money — at least not yet — that is the more important development, according to a number of Democratic strategists who pay close attention to the world of major donors.
If Soros and the Democracy Alliance decide not to use their deep pockets to fund Priorities USA Action, a super PAC formed by two former White House officials with the express purpose of running television ads in the presidential race this fall, it could make it difficult for Democrats to stay competitive on the TV airwaves.
At the end of March, Priorities USA Action had $5 million in the bank while American Crossroads, the major player in conservative outside money circles, had $24 million on hand. (Crossroads has pledged to spend upwards of $200 million on the presidential race — largely through television ads.)
That disparity coupled with Soros and the Democracy Alliance decision to fund things other than TV ads has some within the party worried.
Don’t get your hopes up. Until recently, the received wisdom on this election was that the Obama fundraising juggernaut would swamp out the eventual Republican nominee and that Team Obama would smother the nation in attack ads. Soros might not have thought it was necessary to intervene at the presidential campaign level this time around.
Still, it’s no secret that Obama’s former benefactors on the Left have been holding onto their wallets so far this cycle. Some of that came in response to Obama’s refusal to sign an EO that would have barred discrimination among federal contractors for same-sex relationships, as Greg Sargent noted yesterday. The absence of former big-ticket donors started well before then, though, as the Huffington Post noted when reporting on Priorities USA Action fundraising for March:
The super PAC’s money came from some unexpected sources. Unlike the Republican super PACs with their well-known donors, Priorities USA Action’s donor list does not read like a rock star list of Democratic donors. There is no George Soros, Peter Lewis, Haim Saban or Steve Bing. Instead, there are less-known individuals and, in what might become a trend, a high-profile, foul-mouthed comedian.
In March, the biggest donor to Priorities USA Action was Amy Goldman, with a $1 million contribution. Goldman, an author and activist based in upstate New York, has been called “perhaps the world’s premier vegetable gardener.” Last year, she gave $1 million to the super PAC run by Planned Parenthood.
Chelsea Handler, the comedian behind the cheeky talk show Chelsea Lately and the NBC sitcom “Are You There, Chelsea?,” pitched in $100,000. Handler’s contribution comes one month after the HBO comedian Bill Maher gave $1 million to the super PAC.
Lewis, who founded Progressive Insurance, has let it be known that he’s a lot less interested in political giving these days. The departure of Bing and Soros — if they have departed — will leave a big hole in the fundraising structure from 2008. Some of that might be able to be replaced, but with Wall Street angry over Obama’s class-warfare tactics over the last several months, the entertainment industry might be Obama’s last hope.
If Obama looks as though he’s in serious trouble, though, I’d bet on Soros coming back into the fold. After his success in 2008, it seems unlikely that he’ll sit on the sidelines while Obama gets buried by American Crossroads and the Romney-backing super-PAC Restore Our Future. Even with Soros on board, Obama might find himself seriously outgunned.