. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Soros Says Bush Defeat Matter of Life, Death

NEW YORK -- George Soros, one of the richest men in the world, has given away nearly $5 billion to promote democracy in the former Soviet bloc, Africa and Asia. Now he has a new project: defeating U.S. President George W. Bush.

"It is the central focus of my life," Soros said. The 2004 presidential race, he said in an interview, is "a matter of life and death."

Soros, who has financed efforts to promote open societies in more than 50 countries around the world, is bringing the fight home, he said. Monday, he and a partner committed up to $5 million to Moveon.org, a liberal activist group, bringing to $15.5 million the total of his personal contributions to oust Bush.

Overnight, Soros has become the major financial player of the Left. He has elicited cries of foul play from the Right. With a tight nod, he pledged, "If necessary, I would give more money."

In the past, political parties paid a large share of television and get-out-the-vote costs with unregulated "soft money" contributions from corporations, unions and rich individuals. The parties are now barred from accepting such money. Nonparty groups in both camps are stepping in, accepting soft money and taking over voter mobilization.

Christine Iverson, spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, said Soros is an example of the small group of people with special interests who fund the Democratic Party. "It's incredibly ironic that George Soros is trying to create a more open society by using an unregulated, under-the-radar-screen, shadowy, soft-money group to do it," Iverson said. "George Soros has purchased the Democratic Party."

Soros said he had been waking at 3 a.m., his thoughts shaking him "like an alarm clock." He wrote his ideas, longhand. In January, Public Affairs will publish them as a book, "The Bubble of American Supremacy." In it, he argues for a collective approach to security, increased foreign aid and constructive rather than military action abroad.

The RNC is not the only group irked by Soros. Even old friends have turned foe. Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, which promotes changes in campaign finance, has benefited from Soros grants over the years. Soros has backed altering campaign finance, an aide said, donating close to $18 million over the past seven years.

"There's some irony, given the supporting role he played in helping to end the soft money system," Wertheimer said. "I'm sorry that Mr. Soros has decided to put so much money into a political effort to defeat a candidate. We will be watchdogging him closely."

A Soros aide said he welcomes the scrutiny. He has become as rich as he has, the aide said, because he has a preternatural instinct for a good deal.

Asked whether he would trade his $7 billion fortune to unseat Bush, Soros opened his mouth. Then he closed it. He wrinkled his brow. The proposal hung in the air: Would he become poor to beat Bush?

He said: "If someone guaranteed it."