A The New York Times report indicated Tuesday that Democratic groups will likely use cash infusions from left-leaning donors—which are expected to total around $100 million in the coming days— to improve voter turnout and facilitate election research in the upcoming local, state, and federal elections.
While conservative groups have largely launched campaigns this election cycle with a significant advertising element, the liberal bloc will— in protest of the Citizens United case, and the unlimited sums of money that donors can now give to campaigns to cater to their “special interests”— use its money more carefully to build a liberal infrastructure of research and grass-roots activity, the Times article explained.
Among the signs of the liberal shift away from advertising to internal party improvement was the recent financial commitment made by business magnate and liberal-backer George Soros. According to multiple news reports, Soros announced in an e-mail Monday evening that he plans to contribute $1 million each to America Votes and American Bridge 21st Century, two groups that, respectively, organize political engagements by liberal groups (pro-abortion, environmental, and pro-civil rights committees) and conduct research on the workings of the election cycle.
Soros also gave $1 million to America Votes last year, and, in 2004, he spent $23 million to Democratic campaign boosters to remove former President Bush from office, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In general, both recipients of Soros’s largesse represent a move among Democrats from emphasizing national voting trends to local ones, from using television and widely televised commercials to reaping the benefits of the global, yet demographically specific, opportunities social media offers to campaigners.
Michael Vachon, a spokesman for Soros, spoke about how the financier’s forthcoming donations reflect his nuanced political views.
“George Soros believes the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United opened the floodgates to special interests’ paying for political ads,” Vachon said, referring to the Supreme Court decision that allowed for the formation of “super PACs,” independent political action committees awarded with unrestricted room to back political campaigns. “There is no way those concerned with the public interest can compete with them. Soros has always focused his political giving on grass-roots organizing and holding conservatives accountable for the flawed policies they promote.”
“His support of these groups is consistent with those views,” Vachon added.
As if to echo the growing consensus that he is not looking elsewhere, at least now, for advertising support, President Obama announced the launch of a $25 million ad campaign Monday. This, along with the specific nature of Soros’s donations, reflects the new liberal agenda for the approaching election season.
According to the Times article, the Democratic Party’s focus on grass-roots organization and election research partly stems from liberal disillusionment with the formation of super PACs. In the words of Nicholas Confessore, who authored the Times article: “The departure from the conservatives’ approach, which helped Republicans wrest control of the House in 2010, partly reflects liberal donors’ objections to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision…”
Aside from their opposition to the Citizens United case, however, Democrats have also acquiesced to the fact that, from a purely financial perspective, they cannot match the philanthropic prowess of the conservative constituency. Conservative groups like American Crossroads—which anticipates spending roughly $300 million in the upcoming elections—and Americans for Prosperity are more fiscally healthy than similar democratic organizations, and so, in the absence of a monetary advantage, the liberal groups have turned their attention to a cheaper, and possibly more fruitful political game-plan: raising voter awareness, registration, and turnout, primarily among single women, youth, Blacks and Latinos.
“You can dump 10 or 20 million in TV ads in Ohio and try to reach the persuadable swing voters there, or you can up voter turnout among Latinos in Colorado and Arizona and win that way,” said Steve Phillips, a member of Democracy Alliance, a committee composed of wealthy liberal backers, according to the Times. “It’s much cheaper.”