Watch out for George Soros. He's buying politicians in Florida again.
Usually the billionaire hedge fund manager, a giant political player, works a publicity dodge in an election year.
He's got a pattern: His groups come in and dump large amounts of cash in the final moments of the campaign. So the link between the Soros funds and the candidate are only discovered after the election is over.
Says the conservative Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC), "Over the last few years, progressive billionaire George Soros has dumped millions of dollars into district attorney races around the country."
He has added to his broad support of justice reform by financing prosecutor candidates who promise treatment for drug offenders and the reduction of racial disparities in sentencing. "Soros has used his considerable finances and political clout," says AMAC, "to challenge district attorneys that do not fit into his progressive ideological agenda."
Certainly that's what Soros did in the Sunshine State.
Have a look at the chart on this page showing the $3 million he dumped into Florida races at the 11th hour.
The Kochs look lame in comparison. Search “Koch” in the Division of Elections database and you get 82 $1,000 contributions to House and Senate candidates from Koch Industries in the 2016 election cycle. That's it. My guess is, having seen Soros power through the Sunshine State last time out, the brothers won't be so anemic in 2018.
Soros’s biggest investment came backing Aramis Ayala, the state attorney/prosecutor for Florida's Ninth District (Orlando), to the tune of $1.4 million in TV commercials and mailers provided by his Florida Safety & Justice political action committee. She upset incumbent State Attorney Jeff Ashton in August. Ashton was overwhelmed by the campaign, most of it attack ads.
As soon as she won on Soros's money, Ayala vowed never to seek the death penalty. She swears she made no promises to Soros ("There was no quid pro quo"). But then, Soros himself would not confirm that his money wasn't contingent on Ayala abandoning the death penalty.
In October a second PAC, United For Progress, weighed in on four other Central Florida races and a Miami race. The PAC financed mailers, polling and other services backing Vic Torres in Senate District 15, Emily Bonilla in Orange County Board of Commissioners District 5, Benny Valentin in Florida House District 42, and Beth Tuura in Florida House District 47.
Torres and Bonilla won, defeating Republicans Peter Vivaldi and incumbent Commissioner Ted Edwards, respectively. Valentin and Tuura lost, to Republican incumbent state Reps. Mike La Rosa and Mike Miller, respectively.
In South Florida the PAC backed Robert Asencio, who defeated Republican David Rivera.
None of Soros's favored candidates are law-and-order politicians. Not only are they Democrats, but they're also hard-left progressives. Soros contributes the funds through his Open Society Foundation and the more than 100 organizations his money controls, from The American Immigration Council to Faithful America.
This year, the Hungarian-born political activist has been busy early, enriching the Florida-based PAC United for Progress with $450,000, according to campaign finance records with the Florida secretary of state's office.
The donation represents the only political funding Soros undertook in the Sunshine state in the first quarter of 2018.
Clearly, through United for Progress, Soros this time is aiming to exert influence over the growing Puerto Rican and Latino constituencies in Florida, Chairman Juan Marcos Vilar told the Washington Free Beacon by email. "United for Progress' local leadership has not made decisions about endorsement or opposition to any specific candidates in 2018."
The billionaire actually started 2018 in 2017, wearing his heart on his sleeve for Andrew Gillum. He jumpstarted Gillum's gubernatorial campaign with a $100,000 donation through the PAC Forward Florida, established for no other reason than to help Gillum. The Tallahassee mayor has billed himself as the "most progressive" candidate in the Democratic field.
Democratic operatives tell me Soros's show of faith in the mayor will lure donations from other progressive Democrats.
Of the $172,770 raised by Forward Florida in December, a combined $131,000 came from Soros and Collective Future, listed on disclosure forms as a Washington D.C. Research/Education firm.
This is a billionaire who, to my knowledge, owns no property in Florida, who lives in a mansion more than 1,000 miles away in the Bedford Hills suburb of New York, yet exerts a stunning weight of influence on the Sunshine State.
And there are still Soros's ties to 30 major news organizations -- many with Florida connections -- we have to talk about.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith