Soros and Large Political Donations

Today’s Washington Post has a great piece about the recent donations that George Soros has begun making to liberal advocacy groups.

NEW YORK — George Soros, one of the world’s richest men, has given away nearly $5 billion to promote democracy in the former Soviet bloc, Africa and Asia. Now he has a new project: defeating President Bush.

“It is the central focus of my life,” Soros said, his blue eyes settled on an unseen target. The 2004 presidential race, he said in an interview, is “a matter of life and death.”

Soros, who has financed efforts to promote open societies in more than 50 countries around the world, is bringing the fight home, he said. On Monday, he and a partner committed up to $5 million to, a liberal activist group, bringing to $15.5 million the total of his personal contributions to oust Bush.

My favorite quote comes at the end of the piece, however:

Asked whether he would trade his $7 billion fortune to unseat Bush, Soros opened his mouth. Then he closed it. The proposal hung in the air: Would he become poor to beat Bush?

He said, “If someone guaranteed it.”

It’s gratifying to see what happens when the anger that many of us feel toward the Bush administration is shared by one of the richest men in the world: it gets translated into massive political donations. The only catch is that those donations can’t go directly to the Democratic Party, thanks to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act of 2002 (M-F). His big donations have to go to unaffiliated groups that aren’t governed by M-F.

This is also a good illustration of why M-F has hurt Democrats more than Republicans. Perhaps counter intuitively, Dems have recently (i.e. the last 10 years or so) gotten more of their money from a few giant donations than Repubs.

This matters, because the Supreme Court is due to issue its ruling about M-F within the next month or so. If the campaign finance law is found illegal, expect a huge surge in soft money donations to Democrats (and a large, but somewhat smaller surge for Republicans), one that could substantially level the financial playing field between the two parties. Of course, I also believe strongly in campaign finance in principle. So I’m left very torn about what to wish for from the Supreme Court – a dilemma faced by many others on both sides of the aisle, I’m sure…