BY KATIE BIBER
MOVE OVER, TERRY McAuliffe. Your party has a new Boss.
While the Democratic presidential hopefuls snarl at one another in staged debates, wealthy financier George Soros has been pouring money into Democratic campaign coffers. According to the Boston Globe, Soros will eventually spend about $100 million in his self-aggrandizing crusade to defeat President Bush in 2004.
But aren’t such mammoth soft money contributions illegal, you ask? Think again. As it turns out, the infamous Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) did a slapdash job of turning off the soft money tap. Soft money contributions to national parties are banned, but unlimited (and sometimes undisclosed) contributions to certain other activist groups are wholly legal. Enter George Soros. His colossal contributions have landed at the feet of organizations such as the blandly named “America Coming Together.” While superficially not a party organization, America Coming Together boldly declares its mission will be to “conduct a massive voter contact program, mobilizing voters to defeat George W. Bush and elect progressive candidates all across America.” That sounds a lot like a DNC press release.
Soros is not the only liberal gadfly who has recently showered Democratic groups with cash. Hefty contribution by hefty contribution, Democrats are exploiting the very law they once publicly exalted. Soros himself previously directed as much as $18 million to the pro-campaign finance reform groups that helped pass BCRA.
It is not surprising that the so-called campaign finance reform groups are mum when it comes to Soros. Such groups have been occupied with the not-so-noble task of attacking House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay for his personal fundraising on behalf of respected children’s charities. DeLay has long worked on behalf of abused and neglected children through his DeLay Foundation for Kids, as well as other charitable entities. In order to entice additional supporters, some of the charities are now offering donors yacht cruises and dinners with Representative DeLay. To anyone familiar with nonprofit fundraising, this sounds exceedingly normal.
Nonetheless, the head of a well-known campaign reform group recently called DeLay’s efforts a “cynical scheme” to sell political access.
In a perplexing recent editorial, the Washington Post joined the fray and scolded Representative DeLay for having the audacity to raise money for a good cause. “Leave it to Mr. DeLay to find the [BCRA] loophole – and a particularly repulsive one,” opined the Post’s editorial writers. “[T]here is something especially stomach-churning about using a charitable structure to reinstate the quadrennial game of buying access to power.” CBS News Online went one step further with the headline, “GOP’s DeLay Using Kids To Get $$$?” Huh?
Let’s get this straight. Tom DeLay uses his fame to raise money for a good cause, getting his well-heeled friends to cough up money for charity. Meanwhile, Democratic Party front groups collect giant soft money contributions from George Soros. Tom DeLay earns a tongue-lashing? If campaign reformers are worried about so-called access-selling, they should be more concerned about George Soros than about donors who contribute to Tom DeLay’s pet charities. Democratic front groups help elect Democrats. Children’s charities do not. Consequently, if anyone receives preferential treatment, it is certainly not the charity donors. Despite this obvious truth, George Soros receives a free pass, and Tom DeLay gets raked over the coals.
If the so-called “campaign reform” groups wish to maintain a shred of credibility, they ought to stand up and be the watchdogs they claim to be. Were George Soros a Republican donor, there is no doubt his contributions would yield loud protest. The laws they created may be preposterous, but proponents of BCRA should, at the very least, be consistent. Even the “true believers” seem to be losing their faith. Will they ever practice what they preach?
Katie Biber’s column appears bi-weekly.