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Billionaire George Soros is launching a grass-roots initiative that seeks to raise up to $75 million to prevent President George W. Bush from being re-elected.
The Hungarian-born philanthropist has committed an unprecedented $10 million of his own money to “Americans Coming Together,” or ACT, which plans to mobilize voters in 17 states regarded as battlegrounds in the 2004 election, the National Post reported.
Soros, known as “the man who broke the Bank of England,” says he wants to be known as the man who brought down the government of President Bush, according to the Canadian newspaper.
In 1992, Soros reportedly garnered $1 billion in one day of currency trading that caused the value of the British pound to plummet.
Soros, who distributes $400 million annually through his Open Society Institute, promises to add tens of millions of dollars to the U.S. venture, which also is backed by trade unions and other philanthropists.
Motivation for the initiative is fueled by his contention the Bush administration is mishandling its power.
“The struggle for a global open society must be fought primarily in the United States, because the United States has clearly become the dominant power in the world,” he said in a June interview, according to the Post. “I feel that the current U.S. administration is abusing its power by trying to increase that power instead of using it to try and create a more peaceful and equitable world.”
Soros contends the administration, particularly Attorney General John Ashcroft along with Bush, has used the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to expand its authority and erode civil liberties.
“You pass the USA Patriot Act without proper discussion,” said Soros in a PBS television interview this month. “Anyone who opposed it was accused of giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. I think we’ve gone off the rail in this country. Lawmakers didn’t even get a copy of the bill. They couldn’t even read it before it was passed.”
Republican National Committee spokeswoman Christine Iverson said her party will keep a close watch on the Soros initiative “to make sure they adhere to their claim that they will not be coordinating with the Democratic Party,” the Post reported.
Soros’ efforts have been concentrated mostly on Eastern Europe where a network of organizations under OSI aims to bolster civil society, education, human rights, economic reforms and public health.
While his efforts usually support economic reform and the development of free markets, his new campaign in the U.S. suggests a different approach, the Post said.
While announcing his support for ACT, he contended “unchecked capitalism” fails to provide social justice.
“We need to maintain law and order,” Soros said, according to the Canadian paper. “We need to maintain peace in the world. We need to protect the environment. We need to have some degree of social justice, equality of opportunity. The markets are not designed to take care of those needs.”
Soros also was once a supporter of regime change in Iraq, but now says the removal of President Saddam Hussein will be counted in history as one of Bush’s biggest foreign policy failures.
While his venture naturally has drawn praise from Bush opponents, he is despised by some on the left who view him as a supporter of globalization and the “New World Order” for his own personal gain.
Born in 1930, Soros left his native Hungary in 1947 to study at the London School of Economics then went to the U.S. nine years later where he began building his fortune through foreign currency speculation.
According to his website, he has been active as a philanthropist since 1979, when he began providing funds to help black students attend the University of Cape Town in apartheid South Africa.
Last year he was fined more than $2 million by a Paris court for insider trading but plans to appeal the conviction.
He also has been accused of unfair practices in other foreign markets, including developing countries. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad claims Soros bears some responsibility for Asia’s 1997 economic crisis.