Alexander Soros, the son of the billionaire George Soros, endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) to be the next DNC chair. “As the Founding Chair of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, I am proud to stand with a growing list of people like senators: [Chuck Schumer], [Bernie Sanders], [Al Franken] and countless others in endorsing Congressman [Keith Ellison] for Chair of the DNC,” Soros wrote on his Instagram account. “Keith is as aligned with the values of the majority of Jewish voters as any politician I know, and one only needs look at the work he has done in congress to see that.”
— Alexander Soros (@AlexanderSoros) November 16, 2016
Bend the Arc PAC also pledged to donate $200,000 earlier this year to 12 House Democrats, including Keith Ellison. According to Open Secrets, Ellison received $5,400 in donation from Soros Fund Management. And just recently, Ellison, Warren, and Pelosi held a three-day, closed-door meeting with “George Soros and other rich liberals who spent tens of millions of dollars trying to elect Hillary Clinton.”
Some progressives are concerned about the Congressman’s ties to the wealthy and influential family. Bernie Sanders made ending money in politics a major issue during the primaries. After the catastrophic losses that Democrats faced on November 8, the party is in dire need of a new progressive strategy where the working class takes center stage and not wealthy campaign donors.
I asked the political activist against money in politics Professor Lawrence Lessig if these concerns were warranted. “People should always be concerned,” he answered. “[People] should only tolerate a public official dependent on big money if [he or she has] made an absolute commitment to vote to change the system.”
The good news is that Keith Ellison’s voting record is very strong on campaign finance reform. Ellison cosponsored a bill to match funds by 500% for small donations under $100. He also cosponsored the “Government By the People Act” that would give a 50% tax credit for small donations made to politicians; a legislation that, if passed, would give Citizens United “a run for its money.”
While Ellison’s voting record and progressive roots make a strong case for progressives to support the first Muslim Congressman for chair of the DNC, especially when facing ex-Gov. Howard Dean who is employed by a healthcare lobby firm, progressives should continue to criticize and exert pressure on the Minnesotan Congressman for courting the support of big donors, no matter how innocent that relationship might be. At the very least, these ties would create the “appearance of influence,” which Justice Stevens warned about in his dissenting opinion on the Citizens United ruling. It would also complicate the fight against the influence of money in politics as critics would point to such interactions to discount the proven effects of such influence.
Keith Ellison said the following when asked about his vision for DNC chair:
Well, I do believe that we should have to make the voters first. Not the donors first. I love the donors, and we thank them, but it has to be that the guys in the barbershop, the lady at the diner, the folks who are worried about their plant is going to close — they’ve got to be our focus. They’ve got to be a laser-beam focus on everything we do, and everything we do should animate and empower them at the grass-roots level for working people across this country. That’s how we come back.
I couldn’t agree more. The esteemed Congressman should follow through on his promise and distance himself from big donors like the Soros family.
Rep. Ellison did not respond to our repeated requests for comments.