By Justin Sink
Financier George Soros is opening his checkbook for the first time of the 2012 presidential cycle, pledging $1 million to two separate outside organizations aiding Democratic efforts in the fall.
Soros will contribute to both America Votes, a nonprofit organization that focuses on grassroots efforts to advance liberal policies, and the American Bridge PAC, a group primarily focused on opposition research aimed at defeating Republicans electorally.
According to The New York Times, which broke news of the donation, the Soros donation is the first wave of up to $100 million from major liberal donors to independent organizations supporting Democratic efforts in 2012.
Democrats badly need to catch up to Republicans in donations to outside organizations. Restore our Future, the super-PAC backing likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney, has already raised more than $50 million to support his campaign. Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group partially backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, has said it plans to raise some $100 million this election cycle, while Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS says it could spend as much as $300 million in 2012.
Those numbers dwarf Democratic fundraising efforts, which have been led by Soros's $2 million pledge this week and a $1 million donation by comedian Bill Maher to the pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA.
The gap is partially explained by President Obama's reluctance to embrace super-PACs in the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. But the president reversed course in February, encouraging donors to give to his affiliated super-PAC.
"The campaign has decided to do what we can, consistent with the law, to support Priorities USA in its effort to counter the weight of the GOP Super PACs," campaign manager Jim Messina wrote.
"The President opposed the Citizens United decision," Messina added. "He understood that with the dramatic growth in opportunities to raise and spend unlimited special-interest money, we would see new strategies to hide it from public view.
But the president's reelection team acknowledged Monday that Republicans held a significant advantage, with Obama campaign manager David Axelrod decrying Rove and the Koch brothers as "contract killers out there in super PAC land."