Billionaire launches get-out-the-vote effort against Bush
By THOMAS HARGROVE
Scripps Howard News Service
August 08, 2003
- New York billionaire George Soros, an internationally prominent financier, has launched a Democratic get-out-the-vote effort in a bid to defeat President Bush.
Soros said Friday he has donated $10 million to start Americans Coming Together, or ACT, an organization intended to rally voters in 17 battleground states, against Bush's re-election. The group expects to raise at least $75 million and employ hundreds of election organizers by November 2004.
"I believe deeply in the values of an open society. For the past 15 years I have focused my energies on fighting for these values abroad," said Soros, who donated $1 billion to pro-democracy efforts in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. "Now I am doing it in the United States."
"The fate of the world depends on the United States and President Bush is leading us in the wrong direction," he said in a statement from his New York investment office. "The Bush doctrine is both false and dangerous. The rest of the world is having an allergic reaction to it, as we have seen in Iraq. We need to change direction."
The group will focus on direct-voter-contact programs similar to efforts used by organized labor, according to Ellen Malcolm, ACT executive director.
"In fact, we are not doing any media. This is all a ground operation," said Malcolm, who directed the Emily's List organization to support pro-choice Democratic women candidates. "This is a voter-contact program that is going to use personal contact, mail and the phones. But no electronic media."
Malcolm said ACT will style itself on successful voter-turnout campaigns run by the AFL-CIO during the late 1990s.
"Between 1996 and the 2000 election, they did a tremendous amount of work talking to union members, convincing them to vote Democratic. Union voter turnout increased by almost 5 million votes during that time, while nonunion votes declined by almost 15 million," Malcolm said.
"We think that strategy will have the same kind of effect on a broader range of voters."
She said the group will target key states next year: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. These are states where the 2000 presidential election was extremely close or where Democrats historically have had political strength, Malcolm said.