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Financing His Own Anti-Bush Campaign

Billionaire George Soros plans a speaking tour in five battleground states to get 'my message out.'

September 29, 2004|Richard Rainey | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Calling it "the most important election of my lifetime," billionaire George Soros, a Democratic philanthropist and financial supporter of Sen. John F. Kerry, announced Tuesday that he would spend as much as $3 million on a monthlong, multi-state speaking tour criticizing President Bush and his conduct in the Iraq war.

"President Bush is undermining the civilized discourse that is the foundation of our democracy," Soros said in a speech at the National Press Club. "He is leading us in a very dangerous direction."

The 74-year-old Soros said the theme of the tour would be that Bush had generated hatred of the U.S. throughout the world and made the country more vulnerable to attack.

Republican critics said Soros' newest political move was motivated by self-interest.

"He has invested a lot in this campaign and in John Kerry, and 35 days before the election he's obviously concerned about his investment," said Yier Shi, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

Soros plans to focus his efforts and money on states where the two presidential candidates are closest in the polls, visiting about a dozen key cities in five states.

Steve Smith, a spokesman for Soros, said the bulk of the money would go to newspaper ads and a drive aimed at distributing about 2 million pamphlets to American households.

"I would like to ... reach the business community, particularly the Republicans and traditional conservatives, people who are quite distressed by the policies of this administration," Soros said.

Soros' trip marks a tactical shift for the Democratic activist, who is putting himself in front of audiences rather than just donating from behind the scenes. He is the second-largest individual donor in this year's presidential election, giving $12.6 million to various political advocacy groups.

In addition, Soros has pledged to give $5 million to and $10 million to America Coming Together, political organizations running ads and conducting voter drives in an effort to defeat Bush.

Most of Soros' donations have been given through the 527 tax loophole, so named because of the tax code that regulates independent political action groups. The organizations that received the money have been criticized as backdoors for political donors to circumvent a 2002 reform law aimed at instituting spending caps.

"I didn't invent them," Soros said of the 527 groups, "I merely contributed to them."

Responding to GOP criticism of him, Soros said there was "no way to avoid the smear campaign. It's in full swing and I expect it to continue. And all I can do is try to get my message out and hope that people will actually consider my argument."

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