Left-wing billionaire George Soros is getting involved in the battle for control of the Colorado state legislature. In fact, state records show the New York hedge fund manager is playing in the same five races as another out-of-state billionaire – San Francisco investor-activist Tom Steyer.
Soros and Steyer are both leading members of the Democracy Alliance, a coalition of left-wing political donors. Called “the left’s secret club” by Politico, the Democracy Alliance has steered hundreds of millions of dollars to liberal causes since 2005. This year, according to the Washington Post, the group plans to spend tens of millions of dollars supporting Democrats in state-level races across the country.
“We can’t have the kind of long-term progressive future we want if we don’t take power in the states,” Democracy Alliance president Gara LaMarch told the Post last year.
In the Colorado legislature today, power is divided between the two major parties. Democrats hold the House by three votes. Republicans have a one-seat majority in the Senate. Therefore, if Democrats can hold their seats and pick off one Republican in the Senate, they will win control of the state legislature and restore one party rule under Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).
Steyer and Soros are directly involved in this effort, according to state campaign finance records. The two billionaires have made personal contributions to Democrats in a number of key races, looking to flip the state Senate and widen the party’s majority in the state House. So far, the Steyer-Soros candidates are Rachel Zenzinger (SD-19), Jenise May (SD-25), Daniel Kagan (SD-26), Tony Exum (HD-17) and Joe Salazar (HD-31).
Thanks to state contribution limits, the donations are small, ranging between $200 and $400 for each candidate. But Steyer and Soros use outside groups for the vast majority of their political campaigning, and these personal contributions strongly suggest their outside money will be targeted at the state legislature as well as the presidential election and congressional races.
One of the state’s top political analysts – Floyd Ciruli – has already called Steyer’s spending on Colorado research and polling this election cycle “extraordinary.” The California billionaire – a huge backer of anti-fossil fuel groups – is looking for “vertical control of the ballot, taking over the state for his environmental agenda,” Ciruli said. These comments were based on a research and polling budget of roughly $793,000. Steyer has since increased that amount by another $150,000 according to federal election records.
This is almost double the amount Steyer spent on research and polling two years ago, when he mounted an $8.5 million effort to save U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D). He hasn’t said how much he will spend here in 2016, but Colorado is one of the target states for his $35 million national voter-turnout operation.
As for Soros, he has already donated or committed roughly $25 million to Democratic candidates and liberal causes this election cycle, according to Politico. At least one of groups backed by Soros – a political action committee called Immigrant Voters Win – has announced plans to target Colorado this year. And remember, Soros is just one of roughly 100 members of the Democracy Alliance which has pledged to spend tens of millions of dollars on state-level elections this year.
To be clear, Steyer and Soros have a First Amendment right to say what they want and spend as they wish on politics and matters of public debate. But the involvement of these left-wing billionaires in Colorado elections – and the agenda they want to push through the state legislature – deserves just as much scrutiny as other political players have received.
That hasn’t happened yet, of course. Steyer and Soros continue to fly under the radar. More to the point, their candidates haven’t faced a single question about these out-of-state billionaires and why control of the Colorado state legislature means so much to them.
There is still time to fix this blatant double standard, which denies voters the information they need to make informed decisions. But time is quickly running out.
Simon Lomax is an associate energy policy analyst with the Independence Institute and a consultant who advises pro-business groups. From 2004 to 2012, he was a news reporter covering energy and environmental policy in Washington, D.C. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.