Soros, Obama, and the Millionaires Exception

It is well-known that George Soros, the hedge-fund manager, major Democratic Party donor and anti-Israel crusader, has been a generous contributor to Barack Obama. But relatively few people realize that a loophole in McCain-Feingold allowed Soros his family members to be particularly generous in support of Obama's Senatorial campaign.

Because Obama was running against Blair Hull in the primary and then Jack Ryan in the general (both multi-millionaires), Obama could, and did, receive especially large donations from individuals, to so-called "millionaires exception." Normally individuals are limited to giving $2300 to candidates in federal elections, but when candidates are running against millionaires, these limits are lifted and candidates are allowed to receive up to $12,000 from a single individual. Soros and his family gave Barack Obama $60,000. This does not include money that Soros was able to funnel to so-called 527 groups (, for example) that have also been politically active; nor does it include money that Soros was able to raise from tapping a network of friends, business associates, and employees.

After taking advantage of the special freedom to raise large amounts of money from influential individuals, and as the campaigns entered their closing rounds, news was leaked to media outlets that both Hull and Ryan had personal scandals associated with them. The release of this news devastated both of their campaigns, leading to an easy run to victory for Obama in the primary and then in the general election. The New York Times Magazine revealed earlier in the year that David Axelrod, Obama's chief political and media adviser, may well have been behind the leak of the story that doomed the Hull candidacy as the primary reached its home stretch.

Axelrod is known for operating in this gray area, part idealist, part hired muscle. It is difficult to discuss Axelrod in certain circles in Chicago without the matter of the Blair Hull divorce papers coming up. As the 2004 Senate primary neared, it was clear that it was a contest between two people: the millionaire liberal, Hull, who was leading in the polls, and Obama, who had built an impressive grass-roots campaign. About a month before the vote, The Chicago Tribune revealed, near the bottom of a long profile of Hull, that during a divorce proceeding, Hull's second wife filed for an order of protection. In the following few days, the matter erupted into a full-fledged scandal that ended up destroying the Hull campaign and handing Obama an easy primary victory. The Tribune reporter who wrote the original piece later acknowledged in print that the Obama camp had "worked aggressively behind the scenes" to push the story. But there are those in Chicago who believe that Axelrod had an even more significant role - that he leaked the initial story. They note that before signing on with Obama, Axelrod interviewed with Hull. They also point out that Obama's TV ad campaign started at almost the same time. Axelrod swears up and down that "we had nothing to do with it" and that the campaign's television ad schedule was long planned. "An aura grows up around you, and people assume everything emanates from you," he told me.

In mid-March George Soros wrote his latest broadside against the "Israel Lobby"-calling for the Democratic Party to "liberate" itself from the influence of the pro-Israel lobby and stating that America should be dealing with Hamas, the terror group that is now the governing authority of the Palestinians. This was published in the influential New York Review of Books. So inflammatory were Soros's comments that a few leading Democrats issued rebuttals. While some Congressmen did so personally (Robert Wexler, Eliot Engel), a spokeswoman did so for Barack Obama. Jen Psaki, of the Obama campaign, said,

"Mr. Soros is entitled to his opinion. But on this issue he and Senator Obama disagree.

"The U.S. and our allies are right to insist that Hamas - a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel's destruction - meets very basic conditions before being treated as a legitimate actor. AIPAC is one of many voices that share this view."
Obama received some praise for separating himself from George Soros on March 21st, even if he chose to do so through a spokeswoman. The New York Sun ran an article with the headline, "Obama rebuffs Soros" on March 21st . Hope springs eternal, but in this case, not so much.

New York magazine revealed in an article regarding Barack Obama's fundraising prowess that a mere two weeks later, after this so-called rebuttal of Soros (on April 9th), Barack Obama attended a fundraiser at the New York residence of Steven and Judy Gluckstern. There was a photo at the beginning of the article of Obama speaking from a stairwell to the small group assembled to give him money for his campaign? None other than...George Soros was in the audience.

It seems that Obama's "criticism" (or rather the perfunctory criticism offered by a spokeswoman) of Soros for his anti-Israel diatribe (which was also a veiled insult to  American supporters of Israel) has not prevented Barack Obama from socializing with, and receiving money and support from, George Soros.

Since Barack Obama has proudly proclaimed his purity regarding fundraising ethics, one might ask him two questions about his campaigns against Blair Hull and Jack Ryan. When the scandals surfaced that led to these millionaire opponents withdrawing from the races, did Obama then refuse to accept donations that exceeded normal campaign limits because he was no longer running against millionaires? 

And since he was no longer running against multi-millionaire candidates that could fund their own expensive campaigns, did he see fit to return any of the excess amounts he collected under the millionaire's exception?

Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker
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