A month after John Kerry’s narrow loss to George W. Bush in 2004’s Presidential election, Eli Pariser boasted to his MoveOn associates, “Now it’s our party. We bought it. We own it.” The huge question raised by this audacious declaration was, “Who are ‘we’?” That query is answered in David Horowitz and Richard Poe’s new book, The Shadow Party—a work that also explains how this political takeover was accomplished. In the authors’ own words, “This book documents how, through an extraordinary series of political, legal, and financial maneuvers, an unlikely network of radical activists and activist billionaires gained de facto control over the Democratic Party’s campaign apparatus….”
The eminence grise lurking behind these machinations was and is George Soros, the billionaire financier and founder of the Open Society Institute. It was Soros who declared in November, 2003, that defeating President Bush was “the central focus of [his] life” and “a matter of life and death”—then devoted twenty-seven million dollars to accomplish that goal during the 2004 campaign cycle.
That figure was almost matched by Soros’ friend, Progressive Insurance Chairman Peter Lewis, who channeled $24,000,000 into supposedly non-partisan “527” organizations. Donations by three other Soros associates, Hollywood mogul Stephen Bing ($14,000,000) and Golden West Financial Corporation’s Herbert and Marion Sandler ($13,000,000), brought contributions by the Soros five to a staggering $78,000,000. The Machiavellian quality of these massive donations becomes apparent when one discovers that Soros was also an influential figure, and possibly the key figure, behind the push for campaign finance reform.
This multi-year conspiracy to pass a law for which there was no electoral constituency was dubbed “Pewgate” by the New York Post’s Ryan Sager—a Bronx tribute to the Charitable Trust whose Program Officer made public the covert strategy. A centerpiece of this top-down scheme was Senator John McCain, the “maverick Republican” whose adulatory press was matched by a spate of large gifts from left-wing foundations to his “Reform Institute for Campaign and Election Issues.” Other media icons like Bill Moyers, with substantial foundation backing, joined in conjuring up an illusory popular demand for campaign finance reform. Even a bogus academic study was part of the mix.
In the end, as Horowitz and Roe note, the McCain-Feingold legislation succeeded only in regulating political speech—not at limiting campaign finances. Indeed, the law created a funding crisis for Democrats since they relied more heavily on large “soft-money” contributions than Republicans did. Into this financial breach stepped Soros and company—not with contributions doled out to party regulars, but with an avalanche of funds to establish organizations of their own. Thus did campaign finance legislation and lawyerly accounting methods facilitate a political coup staged by billionaires. Machiavelli, the authors suggest, could only gaze in admiration at this cynical feat of ideological misdirection.
Connected at the hip to Soros’ archipelago of non-profits is the Byzantine political structure known as “Hillaryland”—a secretive world dedicated to the aspirations of the junior senator from New York. Needless to say, “Hillaryland” is generously supported by the former First Lady’s “good friend George Soros.” According to Horowitz and Poe, the “unofficial CEO” who coordinates the activities of all these “independent” and “non-partisan” groups is Harold Ickes—another “good friend” of Hillary and, for a time, Bill Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Of Ickes’ White House job description, Dick Morris commented in 1997, “Whenever there was something that…required ruthlessness or vengeance or sharp elbows… [Clinton] would give it to Harold.” This was a job for which Ickes had been well trained, having spent years providing legal representation for union bosses with purported mob connections. Ickes, it seems, thrives in the shadows.
Among the groups that Horowitz and Roe link to the Shadow Party are a klatch of non-profits known as the “Seven Sisters.” These include MoveOn.org (the feisty brainchild of Wes Boyd and Joan Blades that was transformed into a political player on steroids by infusions of Soros cash), the Center for American Progress (headed by Bill Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff, John Podesta, and known as “the official Hillary Clinton think tank”), America Votes and America Coming Together (organizations focused on voter registration and turnout), the Media Fund (an in-house advertising agency), the Joint Victory Campaign 2004 (a funding conduit), and finally, Thunder Road Group (a powerful organization that combines planning, polling, opposition research, and PR).
While Horowitz and Roe focus much attention on the top of the political ladder, they also show how those players employ, sometimes illegally, grassroots activists. The use of Soros money to fund the successful campaign of David Soares for Albany County District Attorney is an instructive case in point. Even more disturbing, however, are indications that coordination exists to implement a new version of the radical Cloward-Pivin strategy. In the seventies this tactic resulted in dramatically expanded welfare rolls that brought New York City to the brink of bankruptcy. Today, a similar plan of attack is being used “to overwhelm the nation’s understaffed and poorly policed electoral system.”
The disdain that radical leftists have for the democratic process, Horowitz and Roe suggest, may not be an attitude that is anathema to Soros—who from 1959 to 1965 lived among Greenwich Village’s socialist bohemians and later became a close friend of the poet Allen Ginsberg. Evidence from Soros’ revolutionary undertakings in Serbia and Georgia also implies a greater concern for Soros-approved results than for strictly democratic methods. Furthermore, the fact that Soros views the United States government as an oversized bully isn’t encouraging—especially in light of the legion of lawyers that were poised to challenge 2004’s Presidential election results and Congressional proposals for U.N. oversight of elections. Such tactics suggest, at the least, a cavalier attitude when it comes to undermining public confidence in the democratic process.
The Shadow Party’s most intriguing pages provide an ominous portrait of the Hungarian-born billionaire who, in one interview, expressed his wish to become “the conscience of the world,” but on another occasion coolly observed that taking “social consequences” into account would throw off his financial calculations and reduce his profits. Put more bluntly, the latter statement means that Soros wouldn’t have netted two billion dollars from “breaking the Bank of England” in 1992 if he thought about the pain his currency play would bring to British citizens. Similar contradictions attend the man who, until the Tax Reform Act of 1986, sheltered his Quantum Fund from U.S. taxes but now wishes to create a global economic system that would prevent others from doing the same.
Intellectually, Soros declares himself a disciple of Karl Popper and of his former prof’s “open society” philosophy. Yet Soros has little sympathy for an America that is clearly more “open,” by Popper’s standards, than the one the philosopher praised in the early 1950’s. Furthermore, Soros works, often surreptitiously, to establish open societies around the world, yet he opposes the “imposition” of values on foreign cultures. What Soros most clearly despises is “American Supremacy”—a political state of affairs that he likens to a stock market bubble. It’s no wonder that Soros gave up serious philosophizing when he was unable to make heads or tales of comments he had committed to paper the previous day.
The arrogance suggested by Soros’ hopeful self-designation, “the conscience of the world,” is echoed less benevolently in a comment made to The New Republic in 1994: “Just write that the former Soviet Empire is now called the Soros Empire.” Additional doubt is cast on Soros’ philanthropic motives when, as in Kosovo and Russia, the global mogul mixes open society initiatives with shady financial deals. Soros at times acknowledges his schizophrenic persona, but then rationalizes this duplicity by observing that a wealthier Soros can do more good than a less affluent billionaire. For many observers, Soros’ will to power reveals itself as the majority shareholder in an uneasy psychological partnership.
Stories that describe Soros’ tenuous relationship to the Jewish community are also instructive. They include anecdotes that go back to his father, a well-to-do lawyer who exchanged the surname “Schwartz” for an Esperanto appellation based on the verb “to soar.” Soros describes his non-practicing, globalist upbringing as “Jewish” and “anti-Semitic.” When the Nazis overran Hungary in 1944, the Soros family assumed Christian identities and later split up. “Gyorgy’s” safety was secured by paying an official in the fascist regime to take the fourteen-year-old into his home. During the next months this man’s presumed “godson” often accompanied him as he delivered deportation notices and confiscated Jewish property. Decades later, when Soros was asked in a Sixty Minutes interview if this experience had created feelings of guilt, he replied, “Not at all,”—strange words from “the conscience of the world” but not unexpected from an individual who once lectured a group of American Jews on their contributions to anti-Semitism.
Blaming the victim, it seems, is typical for Soros, who immediately rejected a military response to 9/11 and articulated instead a policy of self-scrutiny. For Soros, the best way to retaliate against terrorism is global redistribution of wealth—a policy that a few years earlier (inasmuch as he and Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs redistributed multinational funds in the new Russian state) resulted in “one of the greatest social robberies in human history.”
Viewing events through the lens of moral equivalence is another Soros trademark. This trait was on full display when the billionaire equated the murder of thousands of civilians on 9/11 with the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib: “I think that those pictures hit us the same way as the terrorist attack itself, not quite with the same force because in the terrorist attack we were the victims. In the pictures we were the perpetrators….”
Even if the Horowitz-Poe portrait of Soros isn’t the whole story, their work certainly raises profound questions about the man’s psychic shadow. The billionaire promoter of “open societies” is also, it seems, an opportunistic financier and stealthy kingmaker—a man whose globalist fantasies and contempt for America are matched only by delusions of grandeur rooted in a desperate lack of self-awareness and moral perspective. Such is the mind of the man who, more than anyone else, dominates the Shadow Party.