by Edward Ring
This Christmas season, decorate your trees and hang your stockings, and know that three kings come again, bearing gifts. But this time, 2,020 years later, these three kings bear gifts not for the baby Jesus, but for the Democratic Party.
The biggest lie in American politics today is that Republicans are the party of the wealthy elite, and the Democrats are fighting for the little guy.
While corporate political spending is split roughly down the middle between Democrats and Republicans, in all other categories the Democrats are way in front. Labor unions, which collect and spend at least $14 billion per year in the United States, are almost exclusively committed to Democratic candidates. And while Republicans still have some mega-donor individuals, most of them only contribute to candidates who espouse the same agenda as the Democrats—open borders, “free” trade, and endless wars.
The Democratic mega-donors, however, not only outspend their Republican counterparts, they know how to get results. Which brings us to the first of our Three Kings of the 2020 political season.
Even with an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion, as a presidential candidate, Tom Steyer has no chance. But behind his hopeless campaign is a deeper strategy. The California hedge fund manager is bringing visibility and building support for political organizations he’s founded, already powerful forces in national politics.
Steyer may not be the wealthiest mega-donor on the scene, but he’s willing to spend what he’s got. As cited in Ballotpedia, Steyer “spent more money on the 2014 and 2016 elections—$73 million and approximately $100 million, respectively—than any other individual donor.” According to Forbes, Steyer spent an incredible $123 million to influence the 2018 midterm elections.
While 2016 didn’t go the way Steyer had hoped, 2018 was a different story. Control of the House of Representatives flipped to the Democrats, and Steyer’s political action committee, NextGen, provided significant capital and political influence. For example, his NextGen Rising voter registration operation signed up more than 250,000 voters.
“With 750 staff on the ground and 15,000 volunteers, Steyer’s army flooded over 400 college campuses, claimed to have knocked on just under a million doors and sent 3 million text messages urging young folk to vote,” Forbes reported. “According to NextGen, of the 40 congressional districts its program targeted, around 60% of those House seats flipped from Republican to Democratic.”
One of Steyer’s most effective tactics was deployed in California, where he helped fund “ballot harvesting.” In Orange County, armed with precise voter information, ballot harvesters knocked on the doors of registered Democrats, and in thousands of cases, collected the ballots and brought them to a polling center for the voter. According to Orange County GOP chairman Fred Whitaker, 250,000 ballots were dropped off on election day. The actual amount of harvested votes may have been much higher, since harvesting was occurring for weeks prior to the election. Out of 1.1 million ballots cast, 689,756, or 62 percent, were “vote-by-mail” ballots.
This is not your ordinary get-out-the-vote effort. For each congressional district in play, the cost per 1,000 full-time paid vote harvesters was approximately $125,000 per day. The Democrats spent tens of millions of dollars, and seven congressional seats in California flipped from Republican to Democrat in California. Ballot harvesting is now legal in 27 U.S. states.
Anyone can ballot harvest, of course. But in practice, it’s a costly undertaking. And Steyer, for all his staggering largesse, isn’t working alone. Which brings us to our second of the Three Kings of America.
Of course, Bloomberg—imagine this—is also running for president! With an estimated net worth of $55.6 billion, Bloomberg has money to burn. His campaign cannot be ruled out in what remains a wide-open Democratic primary. But win or lose, Bloomberg intends to continue to leave his mark on American politics. Like Steyer, Bloomberg is funding political operations across the United States.
In 2018, Bloomberg spent an estimated $110 million to help Democrats win. This included $28 million through his super PAC Independence USA, which backed 22 Democratic congressional candidates, 19 of whom won. These efforts promise to be minor compared to what is to come.
collect data about voters on an unprecedented scale, match those data with consumer data, and then hire a team of engineers to do high-level analyses, looking for new ways to identify potential voters, and new ways to appeal to them. They want to match voter data to consumer information and social-media profiles, and look for new ways to break through. Then they want to build a new ‘tech stack,’ or system for processing and applying the data. The goal, they say internally, is to fundamentally change the core Democratic infrastructure.
This is all happening now, and this machine will be deployed to support Bloomberg or whoever is the Democratic presidential nominee. Perhaps of greater significance, it will be used to support every Democratic candidate in every contested congressional race in America.
When it comes to policies, Bloomberg embraces the mainstream Democratic positions on most issues, but distinguishes himself in two areas, gun control, and China policy. Earlier this month, as reported in Politico and elsewhere, Bloomberg unveiled a “sweeping gun control plan” calling for a ban on all assault weapons, mandatory permits for gun purchasers, police notification when owners have been prohibited from holding firearms, and a crackdown on unlicensed sellers at gun shows or online.
Gun control is an ongoing priority for Bloomberg. In 2018, he invested $112 million on 24 political candidates who supported gun control measures and won 21 of those races. In Virginia, where earlier this month voters handed full control of the state legislature to Democrats, Bloomberg’s gun-control lobbying group played a decisive role. Vastly outspending the NRA, which spent $300,000 in Virginia’s recent elections, Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety advocacy group spent $2.5 million to influence voters.
If Bloomberg’s gun control priority gives Republicans “The Willies,” his position on China ought to make every American voter nervous. Liberal Washington Post commentator Josh Rogin, in an opinion column that came inadvertently close to endorsing President Trump, ticked through all the reasons that Bloomberg’s business interests in China and his demonstrated naiveté toward the Chinese regime disqualify him for the presidency.
Bloomberg’s recent observation that “Xi Jinping is not a dictator” says all that needs to be said. Bloomberg’s version of globalism has the United States appeasing China until it’s too late. Which brings us to the third King of America.
Soros has a reported net worth of $8.3 billion, which is deceptive, because in 2018 he transferred $18 billion from his family office to his Open Society Foundations. At 87, Soros has been active in politics for several decades. His foundation operates around the world, and has drawn controversy for its alleged interference in national politics from China to Hungary and in dozens of other nations.
But in the United States, Soros is a powerful force for Democrats.
Information on contributions from Soros, just as with Steyer and Bloomberg, is never comprehensive. There are too many layers of foundations and PACs, too many state and local elections where he’s active, too many examples of indirect political spending such as public information campaigns. But we know Soros committed more than $25 million to Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and donated over $8 million to Democratic PACs in 2018. This is likely just scratching the surface.
A good example of how Soros can exercise a profound influence on U.S. politics yet, at least in this case, remain mostly under the radar, is in his comprehensive campaign to buy U.S. district attorney elections. “New York billionaire George Soros headlines a consortium of private funders, the American Civil Liberties Union and other social justice groups and Democratic activists targeting four of the 56 district attorney positions up for election on June 5. Five other California candidates are receiving lesser support,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
Efforts by Soros to remake the criminal justice system extend across the United States. Michele Hanisee, writing for the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, describes how in 2016 Soros poured money into district attorney races in Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas and elsewhere. In all cases, Soros spent vast sums of money to help elect candidates who share his political and social justice agenda, particularly his opposition to incarceration. Come to any large California city to see how that’s working out.
For the 2020 election, in July 2019 Soros announced the formation Democracy PAC, a new super PAC to coordinate distribution of his donations to organizations supporting Democrats across America. Soros has called President Trump “a danger to the world,” and claims he is trying to “reestablish a functioning two-party system.” Perhaps he should apply his money to supporting that principle in California, an exemplary laboratory of democracy where a one-party system is firmly established—thanks precisely to an alliance of billionaires and public sector unions which, given half a chance, will do exactly the same thing to the United States.
The Three Kings of America Are Trying to Buy the 2020 Election
And they just might succeed. In October 2018, U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tweeted saying that “Bloomberg, Steyer and Soros are trying to ‘buy’ election.” McCarthy eventually deleted his tweet because it generated accusations of anti-Semitism, and also due to its unfortunate timing.
But there are two very distinct issues at play here. One is simple: Did Bloomberg, Steyer, and Soros try to buy the 2018 election? Of course they did. And while they didn’t manage to flip the U.S. Senate to the Democrats, they did help flip the House. With the political future of America at stake, these are legitimate concerns.
Would California have lost seven congressional seats if Steyer and Bloomberg hadn’t spent millions to support Democrats in the Golden State? What is the cumulative impact of Bloomberg, Steyer and Soros spending hundreds of millions of dollars in every election cycle? How does that tilt the balance when there are no other individual players in American so committed not only to throwing around vast sums of money but carefully managing and orchestrating the strategies of the organizations that receive the money?
McCarthy was right. If he were to repeat himself with respect to the 2020 election, he’d be right again. And when you overlay the efforts of the Three Kings to the impact of union money in America, their impact is decisive.
The Three Kings don’t operate alone. Their money and their organizations supplement the efforts of a permanent army of full-time union operatives, virtually all working for Democratic candidates and causes, who when necessary are easily seconded to political campaigns. Other professionals who are supported by union dues are employees and partners at political consulting firms, public relations and marketing firms, publishing and printing shops, and an assortment of nonprofits. These are Democratic party assets, funded by the torrent of union political money that’s used explicitly for politics when campaigning for candidates and lobbying for legislation, and otherwise used indirectly for politics through public education campaigns.
As for McCarthy’s deleted tweet attracting accusations of anti-Semitism, he denied these charges, saying “That had nothing to do about faith. That was about Republicans versus Democrats. Michael Bloomberg put in $54 million into the campaign just in the last couple of weeks in 24 districts. All I was pointing out was money that Republicans and Democrats were spending to defeat one another.”
Quite so. The faith of the Three Kings has no relevance to the fact that they’re trying to buy the 2020 election, just like they tried to buy the 2018 election, nor should it prevent anyone from calling attention to what they’re doing, or the significance of their actions.
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Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is a co-founder of the California Policy Center, a free-market think tank based in Southern California, where he served as their first president. He is a prolific writer on the topics of political reform and sustainable economic development. Ring, a fifth-generation Californian, has an undergraduate degree in political science from UC Davis, and an MBA in finance from the University of Southern California.
Photo “George Soros” by World Economic Forum. CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo “Tom Steyer” by Phil Roeder. CC BY 2.0.