25th December 17:43
Lewis pledges $12 million to oust Bush for presidential race (spokeswoman)
Lewis pledges $12 million to oust Bush for presidential race
Plain Dealer Bureau Chief
Washington- Peter B. Lewis, the Cleveland-based insurance
billionaire and philanthropist, has pledged more than $12 million to
try to oust President Bush from the White House.
Well known for his monetary gifts to Case Western Reserve
University, Princeton University and elsewhere, Lewis has been
providing money recently to liberal organizations that operate
independently of the Democratic Party.
The groups - MoveOn.org and Americans Coming Together - will try to
motivate people to register and vote, using newspaper ads,
television and radio commercials, e-mail, and public appearances to
make their case.
They say that Bush misled the nation on the need to attack Iraq and
they've criticized him on the economy and other policies.
"One of the major themes is highlighting the difference between what
the administration says and what it does," said Wes Boyd, founder of
MoveOn and its MoveOn Voter Fund.
In a way, Lewis is in on the ground floor of a political startup -
one that demonstrates that for all the talk of campaign finance
reform, big money still has a role in politics. Because of the
McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, political parties no longer
can raise unlimited sums to run shadow campaigns for their
candidates. But outside groups - known as 527 organizations for the
tax code section that governs them - can accept unlimited sums and
Lewis was celebrating his 70th birthday with his family yesterday,
an aide said, and could not be reached for comment.
His history of philanthropy involves not just universities and the
arts but also politics. So far this year, he has made contributions
of $1,000 to Democrat Eric Fingerhut's U.S. Senate campaign and
$1,000 to Howard Dean's quest for the Democratic presidential
nomination, records show. Last year, he gave $5,000 to the Ohio
Democratic Party and $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee,
which came on top of a $25,000 donation to the national committee
during the last presidential race.
His money supported two presidential candidates in the last
election: Ralph Nader, with $2,000, and George W. Bush - whom he now
seeks to unseat - with $1,000.
The chairman of the Progressive Corp., Lewis has proven to be "a
genius at redefining marketplaces" in the car insurance industry,
said John Edgell, a Washington lobbyist and fund-raiser. And now,
"what he is doing is redefining the political parties, and getting
them away from the control of one or two elected officials, and
applying best practices to the political world."
Lewis and billionaire George Soros, head of the Soros Fund
Management, this week announced they would give $1 for every $2
raised by the Internet activist group MoveOn.org in its $10 million
fund drive. Together, they will give $5 million if MoveOn reaches
its $10 million goal.
MoveOn started the drive in late October, and so far it has raised
$3.7 million - plus another $1 million already given by Lewis and
Soros, a spokeswoman said. The money will pay for commercials in
Ohio and other states.
"The MoveOn Voter Fund is an effective way to inform public opinion
and bring new people into the game," Lewis said in a statement
released by MoveOn.
Lewis also has pledged $10 million to Americans Coming Together, an
independent group led by Steve Rosenthal, the AFL-CIO's former
political director, and Ellen Malcolm, president of Emily's List,
which helps elect women.
Americans Coming Together, with support from environmentalists and
labor, says it will spend $75 million to elect candidates at all
levels of government.
Bush is extraordinarily skillful at raising campaign dollars, even
with limits on the amount individuals and companies can give. At
least one Democrat, Howard Dean, has already decided to forgo
federal matching money so his campaign can keep up.
Bush's re-election team, however, portrays the in***bent president
as if he were facing an unfair advantage from the new 527 groups.
"When it comes to their money and their organization and all the
soft money and the 527s and these other groups that they're putting
together, we expect to be outspent," said Kevin Madden, a spokesman
for Bush-Cheney 2004.
Tony Welch, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, says
it's too soon to know what role the new 527 organizations will have.
But he said Republicans who claim their party will be outspent are
talking "in a vacuum" - because they're not noting that independent
groups, such as the National Rifle Association, are likely to be out
working to elect GOP candidates.
© 2003 The Plain Dealer.