The Apotheosis of Soros
The billionaire gets his moment in the sun.
Hedge-fund billionaire and left-wing political activist George Soros has become one of the Democratic Party’s most important players. Now that Barack Obama is in the White House, his influence is due to expand even further as the web of activist groups he funds becomes the new brain-trust of the incoming administration.
Mr. Soros has been a friend to Barack Obama since Mr. Obama first ran for Senate in Illinois in 2004. Because of a special provision of the campaign finance law that allows greater contributions to candidates who are running against millionaires, Mr. Soros was able to donate $60,000 to Mr. Obama’s campaign against primary opponent Blair Hull and then against Republican Jack Ryan. Four members of the Soros family also donated to Mr. Obama’s Senate campaign, making Mr. Obama one of only a handful of candidates — including Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle and Barbara Boxer — to receive the richest Soros nod.
Mr. Soros’s influence on Democratic policy has been years in the making, through groups like the Center for American Progress, which he helped underwrite back in 2003 (along with film producer Stephen Bing) to the tune of several million dollars. CAP is currently headed by former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, now Mr. Obama’s transition team leader. With 180 staffers and a $27 million budget, the group is expected to play a role in the Obama administration similar to that played by the American Enterprise Institute during the Bush years, as a feeder for staff and a pusher of liberal ideas.
The problem for Mr. Obama, of course, is that not all Mr. Soros’s ideas fly as well with voters as with the New York and D.C. cognoscenti. The Soros connection already created trouble for Mr. Obama last year over the billionaire’s comment that Democrats should “liberate” themselves from the influence of the pro-Israeli lobby. Mr. Soros also is a prominent advocate of drug legalization. So while the hedge-fund legend may pour money and staffers into the Obama administration, Warren Buffett is likely to remain the billionaire Mr. Obama still prefers to share photo-ops with.