Soros-supported ‘Secretary of State Project’ dealt blow in midterm elections

Matthew Vadum Senior Vice President, Capital Research Center
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The plans of radical philanthropist George Soros and his billionaire allies to make it easier for state officials to affect the outcomes of elections through chicanery were dealt a temporary setback last week.

That’s because five out of seven candidates backed by the Soros-supported “Secretary of State (SoS) Project” went down in flames November 2. Of the SoS candidates endorsed by the “527” political committee, only incumbents Mark Ritchie of Minnesota and Debra Bowen of California failed to drown in the GOP tidal wave. Using 527 groups, which may accept unlimited contributions, is a Soros trademark. Soros gave close to $24 million to 527 groups in 2004 in a failed attempt to defeat President Bush.

Even with last week’s results, the SoS Project still takes credit for electing “11 of 18 election reform candidates in key states like Minnesota” since it began funding candidates in 2006. “Winning in these states has made a difference already, and now we’re gearing up for more wins in 2012,” the group’s website declares.

The reason Soros and his allies want to influence the elections for a state office few people understand or care about is because in most states the secretary of state is the chief elections officer. Political observers know that a relatively small amount of money can help swing a little-watched contest. As Joseph Stalin is said to have once remarked, “The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.” The lesson has not been lost on Soros.

Soros and company know that once elected, a leftist secretary of state can help deliver a close election to Democrats as critics accuse Minnesota’s Ritchie of doing in the protracted slug fest of a recount that followed the 2008 U.S. Senate contest between Al Franken and then-incumbent Norm Coleman. (Soros also funded an effort to take away democratic elections for state supreme courts, as John Gizzi noted in a recent paper for my employer, Capital Research Center.)

The SoS Project holds up former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris as a reason why liberals should send the group money. Claiming to support “election protection,” the group recites well-worn liberal talking points about how Harris was part of an alleged conspiracy that helped deliver the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush.

The secretary of state candidates the SoS Project endorses sing the same familiar song about electoral integrity issues that is routinely heard from Marxist academic Frances Fox Piven and ACORN: Voter fraud is largely a myth, voter suppression of minorities is used widely by Republicans, cleansing the dead and fictional characters from voter rolls shouldn’t be a priority, and anyone who demands that a voter produce photo identification before pulling the lever is hostile to poor people and minorities.

The SoS Project, which raised at least $182,035 in the 2010 election cycle, is an officially approved grant recipient of the Democracy Alliance, a financial clearinghouse that directs its members’ money toward left-wing political infrastructure such as media outlets and activist groups. Soros belongs to the ultra-secretive Alliance, along with billionaires Peter B. Lewis and Herb and Marion Sandler and more than 100 other wealthy liberals.

Democracy Alliance members opened their wallets this year to help candidates endorsed by the SoS Project.

According to IRS reports, members of the Democracy Alliance gave significant contributions. Alliance member and SoS Project co-founder Michael Kieschnick, who heads Working Assets, a long distance provider that funds so-called social justice projects, donated $10,000. Office furniture heir John R. Hunting gave $20,000 and Paul Rudd (not the comic actor) donated $10,000. Heiress Pat Stryker gave $25,000 and financier Nicholas Hanauer donated $5,000. The McKay Foundation, headed by Taco Bell heir and Alliance chairman Rob McKay, donated $10,000.

Four Democracy Alliance members gave Ritchie money this cycle: real estate heiress Patricia Bauman ($250); child psychologist Gail Furman ($200); activist Megan Hull ($500); and attorney Scott Wallace ($500). Contributors to Ritchie’s 2006 campaign included Soros, Drummond Pike, and veteran community organizer Heather Booth, a Saul Alinsky disciple who co-founded the Midwest Academy, a radical school that schools activists on the finer points of political agitation.

Jocelyn Benson, defeated candidate for secretary of state in Michigan, was lauded by the SoS Project as an “[e]lection law scholar and community organizer.” Benson hardly needed the help: she raised at least $802,273, according to state campaign filings.

Frances Kieschnick gave Benson $1,000. She is the wife of Michael Kieschnick who himself gave Benson $3,400. Philanthropist and Alliance member Barbara Lee (not the California congresswoman) gave $2,000.

Other Alliance members who donated money to Benson: Rockefeller heiress Anne Bartley ($250.00); Patricia Bauman ($750); financier Blair Hull ($3,400); Megan Hull ($9,400); Rob McKay ($3,000); founder of ACORN’s Project Vote affiliate Sanford Newman ($500); and Atlantic Philanthropies executive William J. Roberts ($500).

Alliance members gave California’s Bowen money this year too. Michael Kieschnick gave $1,000.

Defeated endorsee Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro took in $4,000 from Megan Hull and $4,000 from Michael Kieschnick. Cashiered endorsee Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher received $525 from Frances Kieschnick and from these Democracy Alliance members: Michael Kieschnick ($525); software entrepreneur Tim Gill ($1,050); and Pat Stryker ($1,050). Unsuccessful endorsee Maryellen O’Shaughnessy in Ohio took in $4,000 from Michael Kieschnick and $1,500 from Megan Hull.

Nevada’s Ross Miller won re-election last week without Soros’s assistance. The SoS Project endorsed Miller in his successful 2006 run but refused to endorse him this time after his office participated in an investigation of ACORN’s voter registration fraud ring in Las Vegas. One ACORN official has already been convicted and another, Amy Busefink, goes on trial with ACORN itself in Las Vegas on Nov. 29.