Soros backs push for Hillary Clinton for US presidency
Billionaire adds his influence to unofficial Ready for Hillary campaign to back moves for her to run for the White House in 2016
Reuters in Washington
Billionaire financier George Soros, a major Democratic donor, has signed on as co-chairman of financing for an effort to persuade Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016, a spokesman said.
"George Soros is delighted to join more than one million Americans in supporting Ready for Hillary," Michael Vachon, Soros' political director, said. "His support for Ready for Hillary is an extension of his long-held belief in the power of grass-roots organising."
The Ready For Hillary political action committee (PAC) is the largest and best-funded independent group backing a potential Clinton candidacy.
The former United States Secretary of State, wife of former president Bill Clinton, would be widely viewed as the favourite for the Democratic presidential nomination if she decided to run.
Soros' pledged an initial US$25,000 which put him on the PAC's national finance council, along with several other major Democratic donors and officials, the group said.
The commitment represents an early engagement in the 2016 presidential race by Soros, a long-time backer of liberal causes.
For Ready for Hillary, which supporters started earlier this year, scoring the support of such a heavyweight donor helps bolster its establishment credentials. The other members of its finance council include Esprit co-founder Susie Tompkins Buell, entrepreneur Jo Ousterhout and lawyers Steve and Amber Mostyn.
But symbolically, Soros' support could mean the most, particularly at a time when Clinton's supporters are seeking to ward off potential challengers to her in Democratic presidential primaries.
Soros was a huge financial backer of Democrats during the 2004 election cycle, donating an estimated US$27.5 million. He also contributed heavily to Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2008. Clinton lost the Democratic nomination to Obama that year.
During last year's election, however, Soros largely stayed on the sidelines, expressing a distaste for new election laws that allowed unlimited fundraising and spending by new "super PACs" and non-profit groups. Soros eventually supported some independent Democratic groups during the November election.
He waited until a month before election day before giving US$1 million to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing Obama's re-election bid.
Clinton, 65, a former senator from New York whose four-year run as secretary of state ended in February, has acknowledged that she is considering another run for president but she has said that she was unlikely to decide until next year.
In the meantime, she has begun to look like a candidate, staying in the spotlight by appearing at a series of paid speeches and fundraisers. Last weekend she publicly endorsed family friend Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for Virginia governor.
Ready For Hillary, which is not officially affiliated with Clinton, was founded this year by a former aide in Clinton's unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.
The group had raised US$1.25 million by July and now claims to have more than 20,000 donors, including many long-time Democratic fundraisers and Obama supporters. Members of Obama's 2012 re-election campaign also have signed on.
Democratic legislators such as senators Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand have publicly urged Clinton to run for the presidency.
The most recent Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll in mid-September showed Clinton nearly 40 percentage points ahead of her nearest potential challenger in a Democratic presidential campaign, Vice-President Joe Biden.
Reuters/Ipsos polling also showed her to be Americans' top choice for president, with New Jersey governor Chris Christie as her closet potential challenger among Republicans. Americans preferred Clinton over Christie by 19 points, the poll, held last month, said.
Ready for Hillary says that it had more than 1 million supporters, including 30,000 new online sign-ups it got last weekend when Clinton campaigned for McAuliffe.
The group plans to back other candidates Clinton may endorse.
"Our strategy is to amplify what Hillary is doing and promote the candidates she is out there advocating for," spokesman Seth Bringman said.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse