WASHINGTON - Making a major foray into partisan politics, multibillionaire George Soros is committing $10 million to a new Democratic-leaning group aimed at defeating President Bush (news - web sites) next year.
Soros, who in the past has donated on a smaller scale to Democratic candidates and the party, pledged the money to a political action committee called America Coming Together, spokesman Michael Vachon said Friday.
The group plans a $75 million effort to defeat Bush and "elect progressive officials at every level in 2004," targeting 17 key states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
"The fate of the world depends on the United States, and President Bush is leading us in the wrong direction," Soros said in a written statement. "ACT is an effective way to mobilize civil society, to convince people to go to the polls and vote for candidates who will reassert the values of the greatest open society in the world."
Soros has been better known for his philanthropy and a $1 billion effort to try to prevent the proliferation of Russian nuclear weapons after the Soviet Union's collapse. He announced earlier this summer that he was scaling back his Russian spending after finding it was subsidizing programs such as education reforms better paid for by the government.
Soros helped finance an ad in The New York Times two Sundays ago accusing Bush of using intelligence "exposed as exaggerated or even false" to justify the U.S.-led war in Iraq (news - web sites).
ACT said it plans a large-scale effort to register voters and mobilize them to go to the polls. It has $30 million in commitments so far and plans a national fund-raising drive starting next month.
The group is headed by Ellen Malcolm, president of EMILY's List, a group dedicated to winning the election of Democratic women candidates who support abortion rights, such as New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (news - web sites).
The new PAC's co-founders include Steve Rosenthal, head of the Partnership for America's Families and former political director for the AFL-CIO; Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union; Carl Pope, the Sierra Club (news - web sites)'s executive director; and Cecile Richards, president of America Votes, a new Democratic-leaning group that includes many of the same members as America Coming Together.
Under the nation's new campaign finance law, the group must remain separate from the Democratic Party to accept contributions on the scale of what Soros has pledged. The law bans national party committees from accepting contributions of that size from any source.
Nonetheless, the effort will help Democrats counter the Republican Party's fund-raising advantage. GOP committees routinely raise millions more than their Democratic counterparts, and Bush is widely expected to collect $200 million or more for next year's primaries — exponentially more than the Democratic hopefuls — with no Republican challenger.
In addition to Soros' pledge of $10 million, the PAC has raised $8 million from labor groups and a total of $12 million from several individuals, Malcolm said. The donors include Louis and Dorothy Cullman, who helped finance the newspaper ad with Soros; Anne Bartley, former president of the Rockefeller Family Fund; Peter Lewis, founder of Progressive Insurance; Patricia Bauman, head of the Bauman Family Foundation; and Rob McKay, head of the McKay Family Foundation. Malcolm declined to say how much each committed.