Soros, alarmed by Trump, pours money into 2016 race

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The liberal New York financier George Soros, whose effort to unseat President George W. Bush in 2004 shattered political spending records, is returning to big-ticket giving after an 11-year hiatus.

Soros has spent or committed more than $13 million to support Hillary Clinton and other Democrats this election cycle, already more than his total disclosed spending in the last two presidential elections combined.

Soros has expressed alarm over the past few months at the candidacies of Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. In a statement last week about a new group he's funding to increase voting by Latinos and immigrants in the election, he again mentioned the two candidates by name.

READ MORE: The Many, Many Reasons Republican Senators Can't Stand Ted Cruz

"The intense anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric that has been fueled by the Republican primary is deeply offensive," Soros said in the statement. "There should be consequences for the outrageous statements and proposals that we've regularly heard from candidates Trump and Cruz."

Michael Vachon, a spokesman and political adviser to Soros, said there was no single cause for the increase in spending. "His support of Clinton is one reason. The tone of the other candidates is the other," Vachon said. The Clinton, Cruz and Trump campaigns, which face crucial primary contests in Ohio and Florida today, didn't respond to requests for comment.

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Soros, alarmed by Trump, pours money into 2016 race
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Former President Bill Clinton greets attendees as he campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, at the Ohio Education Association, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Former President Bill Clinton, center left, has pictures taken with attendees as he campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, at the Ohio Education Association in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Former Columbus, Ohio Mayor Michael B. Coleman listens as former President Bill Clinton speaks while campaigning for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, at the Ohio Education Association, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Attendees take cell phone photos of President Bill Clinton as he campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, at the Ohio Education Association, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton reacts after being introduced before speaking during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Supporters cheer as Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Supporters watch as Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
A man holds up an iPad to get a photo of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton shakes hands with supporters after speaking during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton steps to the podium to speak during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
An attendee wears a sticker on her cheek while waiting to hear Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, speak during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, stands for a photograph with an attendee during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speak during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An attendee wears a button in support of Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attendees stand for the Pledge of Allegiance during a campaign event for Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, shakes hands with attendants while arriving to speak during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to a gym full of supporters at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - Supporters listen to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she speaks in a full gym at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
An American flag is seen in the jacket pocket of an attendee during a campaign event for Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - At Cuyahoga Community College, Clinton supporters wait at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - At Cuyahoga Community College, Clinton supporters pledge allegiance at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - At Cuyahoga Community College, Clinton supporters wait at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - Supporters listen to primary results just before former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to a full gym at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - Supporters listen to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she speaks in a full gym at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - At Cuyahoga Community College, Clinton supporters pledge allegiance at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
An attendee waits for Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, scored an upset win over Clinton in the Michigan Democratic primary, overcoming the double-digit lead she held in polls ahead of the vote and proving he can win in a diverse industrial state. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to a gym full of supporters at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 8: Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Recreation Center on the campus of the Cuyahoga Community College, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton is campaigning in Ohio ahead of the primary on March 15. (Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)
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Soros's importance to Clinton goes beyond the checks he writes, since other major Democratic donors sometimes follow his lead. At the same time, it's likely that in a general election, Trump would pillory Clinton for her reliance on Soros and other wealthy hedge-fund managers. The billionaire real-estate developer has spent months portraying his Republican rivals as the tools of their donors.

Soros, 85, a Hungarian-born speculator who made billions betting on price swings in currencies and other assets, has long been one of the right wing's favorite bogeymen and a magnet for conspiracy theories.

READ MORE: Trump a Repudiation of Washington Narrative: Stockman

Last weekend, some Trump supporters and conservative media organizations blamed Soros for demonstrations in Chicago that caused Trump to cancel a planned rally, pointing to his past support for one of the groups that organized protests, MoveOn.org. In fact, MoveOn hasn't gotten funding from Soros since 2004, according to both Vachon and MoveOn spokesman Brian Stewart.

Soros's personal fortune stands at about $24 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Soros handed off day-to-day management of his hedge fund business in the late 1980's to focus on his charitable pursuits, many of which seek to promote democracy around the world. The Open Society Foundations say they have spent some $13 billion over the past three decades.

Soros spent an unprecedented $27 million trying to defeat Bush's re-election in 2004, much of it through independent groups known as 527s that could accept donations of unlimited size. While the groups Soros funded knocked on doors and tried to boost voter turnout, a conservative 527 group aired a powerful series of ads questioning Democrat John Kerry's war record, helping Bush win a second term. "They were in-your-face distortions of the truth," a frustrated Soros told the New York Times Magazine in 2006. "People don't care about the truth."

Soros signed on as an early backer of Obama during the 2008 campaign, but spent only about $5 million on political causes that cycle, according to a tally by Bloomberg that doesn't include undisclosed donations to political nonprofits. He spent even less in 2012, even though the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling prompted a flood of new seven-figure contributions that year.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that January, he remarked to Reuters that some hard-right candidates would provide a big contrast with Obama but "there isn't all that much difference" between the president and Mitt Romney, the eventual Republican nominee. He also remarked that "a lot of the talent has left" Obama's administration.

A few months later, Soros told a Clinton confidant that he wished he hadn't backed Obama in the primary four years earlier.

"He said he's been impressed that he can always call/meet with you on an issue of policy and he hasn't met with the president ever," Neera Tanden said in a 2012 e-mail to Clinton, who was then serving as Obama's Secretary of State. "He regretted his decision in the primary -- he likes to admit mistakes when he makes them and that was one of them."

The e-mail was one of thousands of Clinton's messages that the State Department later made public, several of which show what a warm reception Soros got from her office. They show him planning a meeting with Clinton to request funding for a university he supports; recommending a few names of potential mediators for a crisis in Albania; and having a long talk with one of her aides about the situation in Burma. Over the past few years, Soros' charities have given between $1.5 million and $6 million to the Clinton Foundation.

Soros's biggest contribution this year is a total of $7 million to Priorities USA, the main super-PAC supporting Clinton. Another $1 million went to American Bridge, an opposition-research group. And last week, he announced he was putting $5 million into a new super-PAC known as Immigrant Voters Win. The group is part of a coordinated $15 million voter-turnout effort, first reported in the New York Times, that is targeting Latinos and immigrants in Colorado, Nevada and Florida.

The $13 million total puts Soros near the top of the list of this election cycle's biggest donors, and it doesn't include the $5 million he's pledged to another effort, led by Democratic lawyer Marc Elias, to challenge new voter-identification laws and other restrictions at the state level.

In an era of super-PACs, Soros's giving doesn't stand out like it used to. Thomas Steyer, the former San Francisco hedge-fund manager, spent more than $70 million in 2014, and the casino mogul Sheldon Adelson gave more than $90 million in 2012.

At Davos in January, Soros remarked that Trump and Cruz are engaging in "fear mongering." But he predicted that neither of them would prevail in the November election. "Here I have to confess to a little bit of bias, so take that into account," he told Bloomberg Television. "I think it's going to lead to a landslide for Hillary Clinton."

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