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Donor profile: George Soros

Quick stats on the biggest financial backers of Election 2012

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 Updated:

Ranking: 18

Total contributions to super PACs: $5.1 million**

  • $1.1 million combined from son Jonathan Soros, son Alexander Soros and daughter Andrea Soros Colombel to Friends of Democracy (pro-campaign finance reform)
  • $1 million to Priorities USA Action (pro-Barack Obama)
  • $1 million to American Bridge 21st Century (pro-Democratic)
  • $850,000 combined from Andrea, Jonathan and daughter-in-law Melissa Soros to Planned Parenthood Votes (pro-Democratic)
  • $675,000 to House Majority PAC (pro-Democratic)
  • $300,000, all from Alexander, to the Jewish Council for Education and Research (pro-Barack Obama)
  • $100,000 to Majority PAC (pro-Democratic)

Notable federal hard money and 527 contributions:

  • Between 2004 and 2008, George Soros contributed $32.2 million to a variety of Democratic-aligned 527 committees, including $23.7 million during the 2004 election cycle alone, when he ranked as the No. 1 donor to these political committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
  • Jonathan Soros and his wife Jennifer gave more than $880,000 to federal candidates, PACs and political parties during the 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
  • Alexander Soros contributed at least $348,500 to federal candidates, PACs and political parties during the 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Notable state-level contributions (see here):

  • $1.4 million in support of California’s Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act (2008)
  • $1 million in support of California’s Proposition 36, which modified the state’s “Three Strikes” law (2012)
  • $1 million in support of California’s Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana in the state (2010)
  • $406,000 to oppose Arizona’s Proposition 302, which gave judges more latitude in dealing with drug probation violations (2002)
  • $400,000 in support of Massachusetts’ Ballot Question 2, which eliminated criminal penalties for marijuana possession (2008)

Corporate ownership: Soros Fund Management LLC

Subsidiaries: Soros Private Equity Fund

Total spent on federal lobbying by (2007-2012): $0. Soros Fund Management has not reported any federal lobbying since 2005.

Family: Five adult children: Robert Soros, Andrea Soros Colombel, Jonathan Soros, Alexander Soros and Gregory Soros

Biography:

Billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, a well-known and prolific donor to liberal causes, took it easy in 2012, giving, along with his family, a relatively modest $3.9 million to super PACs this election cycle. That’s down significantly from just a few years earlier when he bankrolled Democrats’ electoral efforts.

Soros was an ardent foe of former President George W. Bush, calling the Texan’s 2004 re-election bid “a matter of life and death.” He gave nearly $24 million to various so-called “527 committees,” the predecessors to super PACs, in an attempt to defeat Bush. Though Soros has continued to make substantial contributions to progressive outside spending groups, he has not given more than $5 million in an election cycle to these organizations since then, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Soros, who with a net worth of $19 billion is the 22nd richest man in the world, has been an active supporter of “open societies” — those that embrace democratic governance, freedom of expression and respect for individual rights — since 1979. He worked to foster free speech in communist Eastern Europe and continued to support the creation of open societies in former Soviet bloc countries after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

Through the Open Society Foundations, Soros’ massive international network of charitable organizations, he has given more than $8 billion toward an array of causes, ranging from providing humanitarian aid to Burmese war victims to implementing freedom of information laws around the world.

His views are shaped in part by his experiences as a young Jewish teenager during the Nazi occupation of his native Hungary and the subsequent imposition of Stalinism in the country.

After emigrating to England in 1947 and earning a degree from the London School of Economics, Soros found work as a merchant banker in London. He moved to New York City in the mid-1950s to pursue a career in finance and started his signature hedge fund, the Quantum Fund, in 1969.

Soros is perhaps best known for his ability to predict — and profit from — market crashes. He has been dubbed “the man who broke the Bank of England,” profiting more than $1 billion when the British government devalued the pound sterling in 1992.

Soros also profited during the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s by short selling Thai and Malaysian currencies. He has been accused of causing the crisis, but maintains that was not the case.

His hedge fund company began managing Soros family assets exclusively in July 2011. The company had about $25 billion in assets under management prior to the transition, and returned $1 billion to investors following the announcement.

Soros’ son Alexander, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in history at the University of California, Berkeley, has started his own philanthropic organization. The Alex Soros Foundation supports social justice and human rights.

Soros’ son Jonathan launched his own super PAC called “Friends of Democracy” in April. The group markets itself as an anti-super PAC super PAC, supporting candidates who back campaign finance reform. Jonathan and his siblings accounted for the bulk of the money the organization raised.

“We openly acknowledge the irony of being a super PAC trying to address money in politics,” Jonathan Soros told the Washington Post in July. “But our goal is to eventually decrease the influence of this kind of group.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Friends of Democracy spent roughly $2 million against 11 Republican candidates in the 2012 election.

Soros has been married and divorced twice. He is currently engaged to Tamiko Bolton, who is 42 years his junior.

Last updated: Jan. 30, 2013

*George Soros is the chairman of the Open Society Foundation, which provides funding for the Center for Public Integrity. For a list of the Center's donors, visit this page on our website.

**2011-2012 election cycle. Source: Center for Responsive Politics and Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission records. Totals include contributions from individuals, family members and corporations that are controlled by the individual super donor.