Tag Archives: Citizens United

Soros PAC Targets Democratic Incumbent in Texas DA Race Who Opposes Sanctuary Cities

San Antonio, TX— A political action committee (PAC) backed by progressive billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who has spent millions targeting local District Attorney races in recent years, has contributed to yet another local election in Texas.

An investigation of campaign finance documents by The Daily Caller revealed that Soros, through a state-level PAC called Texas Justice & Public Safety, spent $70,000 in support of primary opponent Joe Gonzales against sitting Bexar County District Attorney Nicholas LaHood.

LaHood is actually a Democrat, but due to his opposition to sanctuary cities and proclaimed support of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s stated intent to target cities that disregard federal immigration law, his seat has become a target. More than $30,000 was spent by the Texas Justice & Public Safety PAC on mailers that label LaHood as “bigoted,” “racist” and “Islamophobic” in both English and Spanish.

The Daily Caller report notes:

Soros has repeatedly backed left-wing district attorney candidates with massive donations typically only seen in gubernatorial, congressional or presidential campaigns. Soros spent more than $9 million on local DA races in 2015-2017 alone, allowing the New York resident to influence local criminal justice policies all across the country.

Interestingly, while other billionaires have used the Citizens United decision to inject millions into presidential and other high-profile congressional races, Soros has enacted a strategy of infusing millions into local DA races with a stated goal of reforming the U.S. criminal justice system.

According to a report by Politico:

His money has supported African-American and Hispanic candidates for these powerful local roles, all of whom ran on platforms sharing major goals of Soros’, like reducing racial disparities in sentencing and directing some drug offenders to diversion programs instead of to trial. It is by far the most tangible action in a progressive push to find, prepare and finance criminal justice reform-oriented candidates for jobs that have been held by longtime incumbents and serve as pipelines to the federal courts — and it has inspired fury among opponents angry about the outside influence in local elections.

Soros has spent on district attorney campaigns in Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas through a network of state-level super PACs and a national “527” unlimited-money group, each named a variation on “Safety and Justice.” (Soros has also funded a federal super PAC with the same name.) Each organization received most of its money directly from Soros, according to public state and federal financial records, though some groups also got donations from nonprofits like the Civic Participation Action Fund, which gave to the Safety and Justice group in Illinois.

As a means of pushing back against the Soros influx of funding, LaHood and others have attempted to publicize Soros’ involvement, accusing him of trying to buy DA seats across the country.

“We know George Soros is a billionaire who has purchased at least 10 other district attorney’s offices around the country, not to mention other political positions,” LaHood said in the ad aimed at highlighting Soros, titled, “Your DA’s Office is Not For Sale.”

Thus far, the only losing effort by a Soros-backed candidate has been in Houston’s Harris County. Keeping in line with the strategy of targeting races with large urban centers, Bexar County is Texas’ fourth most populous county and includes the city of San Antonio.

Bush Drops Out After Donors Spend over $100 Million on 2016 Campaign

After a disappointing fourth-place finish in the South Carolina GOP presidential primary, former Florida governor Jeb Bush announced on Saturday that he is suspending his campaign for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

I’m proud of the campaign that we have run to unify our country and to advocate conservative solutions that would give more Americans the opportunity to rise up and reach their God-given potential,” said Bush in the above-embedded Associated Press video. “But the people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken, and I really respect their decision. So tonight I am suspending my campaign.

Ultimately, the family name that made Bush a hit among the Republican establishment’s donor class became a liability in a race in which candidates angled to present themselves as warriors against the status quo. Current GOP frontrunner and billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump also relentlessly attacked Bush throughout the campaign, characterizing him as “low energy.

[RELATED: Bush Super PACs Outspent All Iowa Campaigns, Garnered Sixth-Place Finish]

According to Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets website, which tracks money in politics, super PACs supporting Jeb Bush raised over $118 million and spent over $94 million of that money promoting his candidacy. His official campaign committee burned through another $30 million.

Bush received far more help from outside super PACs than any other candidate in either party has in the race so far. Republican Sen. from Texas Ted Cruz, second among GOP candidates in super PAC fundraising, has only raised around $46 million in outside contributions.

[RELATED: DONEGAN: Citizens United Ruling Lets Advocacy Groups Expose Politicians’ Voting Records]

Following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC ruling, which recognized the right of individuals, corporations, and non-profits to spend unlimited money on advertisements promoting their political ideas or preferred candidates, some political observers expressed worries that the ruling would allow a candidate with the strongest support among wealthy donors to utilize unlimited super PAC spending to buy an election.

In Jeb Bush’s case, this strategy did not work.

For more 2016 election coverage, click here.

Follow Barry Donegan on Facebook and Twitter.

DONEGAN: Citizens United Ruling Lets Advocacy Groups Expose Politicians’ Voting Records

Since the dawn of human history, wealthy people have had a disproportionate level of influence over the political process, regardless what policies are enacted in an effort to prevent it. When the Supreme Court overturned the government’s ban on citizens organizing in groups and expressing themselves in political advertisements via the Citizens United v. FEC ruling, some well-meaning politicos declared that moneyed interests would soon buy up the U.S. government, creating an impermeable billionaires’ club establishment that can never be defeated politically.

In reality, Citizens United v. FEC has, rather than further entrenching existing industrial complexes, unleashed a multi-billion dollar negative advertising machine, trashing candidates from coast-to-coast by exposing their voting records to voters, most of whom have little time in their day-to-day lives to follow all of their legislators’ moves. If a candidate for re-election votes in a way that is offensive to an advocacy group, that group can now blanket the airwaves with ads educating voters on that fact.

Meanwhile, the criticism that free speech in political advertising will favor billionaires at the expense of the poor assumes that people align politically on the basis of their income level, rather than their political views. In reality, rich and downtrodden Americans alike each have their own opinions and often align individually on issues. The 2016 presidential race, where billionaire Donald Trump is attempting to seize the Republican nomination while the even-richer Koch brothers fight against him, shows that America’s ultra-wealthy are not in lock-step agreement with each other. Prior to the Citizens United ruling, a candidate like Donald Trump would have had an even larger advantage than he does now that the Koch brothers can weigh in on the race with advertisements letting citizens know what to expect from a Trump presidency.

On the center-right side of the political spectrum, billionaires like socially-conservative Sheldon Adelson fight for different candidates and issues than the more libertarian-leaning billionaires like PayPal founder Peter Thiel. Leftist George Soros can do battle dollar-for-dollar with nearly any conservative-leaning ultra-wealthy philanthropist.

Citizens United allows companies to educate voters when regulations will have an impact on their prices and products. It allows policy advocates to raise money, often from smaller donors through fundraising vehicles like money bombs, to educate voters when the outcomes of elections will affect the issues that are important to them.

Prior to the Citizens United ruling, it was already impossible for a candidate to win a state-wide political race without a massive war chest filled with donations, and nothing in that sense has changed. The wealthiest people can always hire lawyers to conjure loopholes through which their interests can be achieved no matter what laws are passed in an effort to block them. However, Citizens United has opened up political advocacy to groups funded by large numbers of small donors who previously couldn’t use billionaires’ legal maneuvers to sidestep campaign finance limits.

Citizens United has also evened the playing field between citizens and owners of corporate media outlets. What is the fundamental difference between a billionaire starting a media company that publishes opinion articles and an advocacy group expressing a political viewpoint by purchasing a commercial on that same media outlet to expose a vote from a politician’s record that the media is not publicizing?

Regarding the 2016 presidential campaign, Politico’s Jack Shafer wrote, “The best-financed candidates seem to be enjoying no dramatic advantage over their less-well financed opponents. On the Republican side, Jeb Bush has collected $120 million in donations to lead all Republicans in the money sweepstakes, yet he trails Donald Trump badly in the polls. Trump has raised a mere $1.9 million—and $1.8 million of that is a Trump loan! Ben Carson is beating both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in the polls despite raising a fourth of their loot.

He added, “On the Democratic Party side, poll leader Hillary Clinton leads the money race with $67.8 million, but her poll numbers are dropping at about the same rate that Bernie Sanders’ are rising, and the Sanders campaign has raked in only $15.2 million.

It is also worth noting that prior to the Citizens United ruling, billionaire Donald Trump still would have been able to self-finance his own campaign. Now that free speech has been unleashed in political advertising, advocacy groups and other wealthy individuals can self-finance the opposition to a candidate’s campaign, thus neutralizing, rather than empowering, particular moneyed interests’ control over politics.

Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic Donated to Ron Paul, Owns Guns

In a lengthy interview with Nick Gillespie for Reason, embedded above, Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic discussed his evolving political views in great detail. Novoselic described the shared political values of Nirvana’s early days as “this lefty stuff, but not very deep. We grew up against Reagan because our punk rock scene was so anti-Reagan.” Later in life, he was elected State Committeeman of Washington’s Democratic Party and supported Barack Obama for president.

However, with time, his views have begun to transform, and he recently left the Democratic Party. Said Novoselic, “I was a Democrat for about four or five years. Active Democrat. And I thought I could reform the party. Maybe I wasn’t going about it right. Maybe somebody can and somebody will. I don’t see it. It’s a top-down structure. It’s a money conduit.” He self-categorized his current political views, somewhat facetiously, as “an anarcho-capitalist socialist” and a “gun-owning pacifist.”

Despite coming from a left-leaning viewpoint, Nirvana’s bassist has taken on some surprisingly libertarian values. He donated $100 to Ron Paul in 2007. He no longer looks at all corporations as inherently evil and supports the controversial Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling that lifted restrictions on political expenditures by organizations like corporations and labor unions. He is also a gun owner with “pistols and semi-automatic rifles” and supports drug legalization.

He explained his endorsement of Citizens United in terms of how the ruling helped in defeating the maligned Stop Online Piracy Act, “It was SOPA and PIPA… and what happened is people got together with Google… and they stopped that legislation dead in its tracks, super fast. My point is that people need to come together with, like, money bombs, Kickstarter campaigns.”

Novoselic also discussed the anarchic tendency of Republican Party rhetoric and pointed to megachurches as examples of anarchic institutions, “You have people making their own way and making these structures, and there are these megachurches, and they have their own day care, they have auto repair, they offer people benefits, insurance, and so they’re making these structures. They’re collectives is what they are. It’s anarchism.”

He veered near voluntaryism as he explained his views on spontaneous collectives, “Whatever your values are and your beliefs, that’s your business. You can do whatever you want to do. You build these structures, your day care. People want public day care. Couldn’t you, as a mommy or a daddy, couldn’t you do some kind of co-op? I’m sure they have those.” He cited the do-it-yourself spirit of punk rock culture as a major influence on his general support of decentralized institutions, “I think it just goes back to the values that I grew up with in the punk rock world because it was this decentralized world and so we just made our own way. We’d be anti-government but we really didn’t complain a lot. We were more action oriented. People were publishing fanzines, we were setting up shows, we were getting in vans and touring around and we were associating with other people, so I just like that idea.”

Krist Novoselic currently serves on the board of directors of FairVote, an organization promoting alternative election systems to enable proportional voting in local elections, and was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with his bandmates in Nirvana. He is currently taking online classes in pursuit of a social sciences degree and is an active member of the fraternal organization the Grange.