Politics & Policy

Penn. Shuffle

Soros funds Specter?

A donor group that prefers moderate Republicans to conservatives has unveiled its latest ad to help Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, contending the incumbent deserves reelection because of what he’s done for Ginny Snyder’s colon.

Ginny Snyder, a resident of Greenfield, Penn., suffered from colon cancer six years ago; she had it partially removed and is now the focus of a commercial from the pro-Specter Main Street Individual Fund.

In the commercial Snyder says, “There’s one hope for cancer sufferers: Having the money for research that will finally find a cure. Senator Arlen Specter has been a major force in providing federal grants for that research, a leader in providing the help and the hope we all need… My name is Ginny Snyder and I’m a cancer survivor. Thank you, Senator Specter.”

The Main Street Individual Fund–a 527 group that has a similar views and goals as the pro-moderate, anti-conservative Republican Main Street Partnership–announced Tuesday it would be spending $200,000 over the next two weeks to help Specter. Half is slated for television ads and half is for get out the vote efforts. About 175,000 phone calls will go out to potential pro-Specter voters, half live, half taped, according to Main Street Individual Fund Spokeswoman Sarah Chamberlain Resnick.

Specter should get a boost from President Bush when he travels to Pittsburgh April 19 for a rally with the incumbent senator. A close watcher of the race contended that the high-profile visit is payback for Specter’s support on the extremely close 2001 vote on Bush’s tax cut.

“Our belief is that this is Specter calling a chit, and nothing more should be read into it,” said the individual, who is backing Toomey. “A deal is a deal, and if Bush made that agreement, he’s not going to break it. If you do something like that [breaking a deal], it gets around.”

The Main Street’s arch-nemesis, the Club for Growth, has been strongly supporting conservative Rep. Pat Toomey in the April 27 Pennsylvania Republican primary. Club for Growth executive director David Keating thinks the Bush visit will result in a presidential embarrassment.

“If the White House looked at polling I’m seeing right now, they would be nervous about sending the president and staking his prestige on someone so shaky,” Keating said. “It’s interesting that they’re picking Pittsburgh, because Specter is showing surprising weakness in that area.”

The primary has turned into a proxy war between the Club for Growth, representing the GOP’s conservative wing, and the Main Street Fund, representing moderates and centrist Republicans. And a few big donors who are probably more accurately classified as “Democrats.”

The second-largest single donor to the Main Street Individual Fund, according to most recent information on Opensecrets.org, is George Soros. Yes, that George Soros, the one who compared the Bush administration to Nazi and Communist regimes, who has compared the Bush administration to George Orwell’s 1984, called Bush’s policies “Social Darwinist,” who called defeating Bush in 2004 “the central focus of my life,” and who donated $15.5 million to groups aiming to defeat Bush.

But that donation apparently arrived before Soros began frothing at the mouth about Bush, at least publicly. Resnick explained that Soros donated $50,000 to MSIF shortly after its founding in late 2002.

“We had no idea he was going to go after Bush,” she said. “Since then, he has offered additional donations, but we have turned them down because we are Republicans first.”

Apparently the moderate Republicans on the Main Street board missed Soros’s April 8, 2002, speech at the University of Pennsylvania where he said, “If we assess the foreign-policy accomplishments of the Bush administration since Sept. 11, the scorecard is quite dismal.”

“There are some people in the Bush administration who have the same mentality as Arafat or Sharon,” Soros said. “I can name names, like Ashcroft, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, although that is considered impolite…. [T]he war on terrorism cannot be won by waging war. We must, of course, protect our security; but we must also correct the grievances on which terrorism feeds.”

MSIF kept Soros’s donation.

“We thought it might be a bigger story if they returned it,” Resnick said. “It’s, by comparison, only a little bit of money, and we might as well get some Republicans help with that money.”

Of course, the Main Street Individual Fund has other large donors. The single largest is the Goldman Sachs Group with $125,000. The largest individual donor is Dinakar Singh, managing director at Goldman, Sachs & Co., who has given $100,000 to the fund this cycle, according to Resnick. This is legal (at least for now, the FEC is expected to rule on it shortly) under the current campaign-finance law, because Singh and other donors are not earmarking their money to a particular candidate.

But Singh’s donations from the last cycle reveal he’s not exactly a big GOP booster. He gave $5,000 in hard money and $70,000 in unlimited soft money to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $5,000 to DASHPAC (Tom Daschle’s political action committee) $1,000 each to Democratic senators Tim Johnson, Bob Torricelli (now ex-Sen.), and Tom Harkin, and $2,500 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. His sole GOP contribution last cycle? One grand to Specter.

Of course, not all of the fund’s donors are such nominal Republicans. Elsie Hillman, a longtime Pittsburgh GOP civic booster married to a multibillionaire financier, has donated $2,000 to President Bush, GOP Reps. Mark Foley, Jim Greenwood, Bill Shuster, and groups like the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition. Rep. Amo Houghton of New York, while one of the House’s most liberal Republicans, is still a member of the party and kicked in $25,000.

But don’t expect Toomey to make an issue that money for pro-Specter ads is coming from folks like George Soros.

“It’s too complicated, too tangential,” Keating said. “The average voter doesn’t really care about this. This is more for the activists.”

That suggests that support from the White House and Democratic donors is no contradiction. Maybe Specter could get Soros and Bush on the same stage to make simultaneous endorsements of him.

Jim Geraghty, a reporter with States News Service in Washington, is a frequent contributor to NRO and a commentator on London’s ITN News.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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