The liberal New York financier George Soros, whose effort to unseat President George W. Bush in 2004 shattered political spending records, is returning to big-ticket giving after an 11-year hiatus.
Soros has spent or committed more than $13 million to support Hillary Clinton and other Democrats this election cycle, already more than his total disclosed spending in the last two presidential elections combined.
Soros has expressed alarm over the past few months at the candidacies of Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. In a statement last week about a new group he's funding to increase voting by Latinos and immigrants in the election, he again mentioned the two candidates by name.
"The intense anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric that has been fueled by the Republican primary is deeply offensive," Soros said in the statement. "There should be consequences for the outrageous statements and proposals that we've regularly heard from candidates Trump and Cruz."
Michael Vachon, a spokesman and political adviser to Soros, said there was no single cause for the increase in spending. "His support of Clinton is one reason. The tone of the other candidates is the other," Vachon said. The Clinton, Cruz and Trump campaigns, which face crucial primary contests in Ohio and Florida today, didn't respond to requests for comment.
Soros's importance to Clinton goes beyond the checks he writes, since other major Democratic donors sometimes follow his lead. At the same time, it's likely that in a general election, Trump would pillory Clinton for her reliance on Soros and other wealthy hedge-fund managers. The billionaire real-estate developer has spent months portraying his Republican rivals as the tools of their donors.
Soros, 85, a Hungarian-born speculator who made billions betting on price swings in currencies and other assets, has long been one of the right wing's favorite bogeymen and a magnet for conspiracy theories.
Last weekend, some Trump supporters and conservative media organizations blamed Soros for demonstrations in Chicago that caused Trump to cancel a planned rally, pointing to his past support for one of the groups that organized protests, MoveOn.org. In fact, MoveOn hasn't gotten funding from Soros since 2004, according to both Vachon and MoveOn spokesman Brian Stewart.
Soros's personal fortune stands at about $24 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Soros handed off day-to-day management of his hedge fund business in the late 1980's to focus on his charitable pursuits, many of which seek to promote democracy around the world. The Open Society Foundations say they have spent some $13 billion over the past three decades.
Soros spent an unprecedented $27 million trying to defeat Bush's re-election in 2004, much of it through independent groups known as 527s that could accept donations of unlimited size. While the groups Soros funded knocked on doors and tried to boost voter turnout, a conservative 527 group aired a powerful series of ads questioning Democrat John Kerry's war record, helping Bush win a second term. "They were in-your-face distortions of the truth," a frustrated Soros told the New York Times Magazine in 2006. "People don't care about the truth."