Soros to give $2 million to Democratic groups

George Soros, seen here on Jan. 27, 2011, in Davos, Switzerland, is worth $22 billion, reports Forbes.
Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images
Billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros.

Updated: 4:40 p.m. ET

(CBS News) Billionaire George Soros is donating a hefty $2 million toward two liberal groups fighting to get President Obama re-elected in November, but he suggests the money won't go toward a barrage of negative advertising.

Soros, a prominent longtime Democratic donor reportedly worth about $20 billion, will be "focusing his political giving in 2012 on grassroots organizing and holding conservatives accountable for the flawed policies they promote," adviser Michael Vachon said in a note to colleagues this week.

Soros is pledging donations of $1 million each to the groups America Votes and American Bridge, the former of which works with partner organizations across the country to advance progressive policies, expand access to the ballot, coordinate issue advocacy and election campaigns, and protect every American's right to vote, according to its website. American Bridge is a super PAC that focuses on research and communications and aims to make sure candidates' rhetoric match their voting records.   

A spokesman for American Bridge says the group does not run negative television ads, although the research it produces may go into paid advertising. The group does run online videos, many of which attack presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. A spokesperson for America Votes said the organization does not run either paid advertisements or attack videos. The group did run a couple of paid advertisements in 2008, the spokesperson said, but has no plans to do so in 2012.

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In his note, Vachon said Soros recognized the relevance of super PACs and the "the importance of not unilaterally disarming" but emphasized that the investor and philanthropist aims to donate in such a fashion that focuses on civil actions rather than negative advertising.

"We recognize the importance of not unilaterally disarming," Vachon wrote. "We don't have to match dollar for dollar, but we do need to be competitive. But advertising just isn't what George has historically done. His focus has always been civil society."

As GOP-oriented super PACs continue to accumulate millions of dollars toward the November elections, some Democratic donors are attempting to find ways to contribute to outside groups in a way that jibes with their progressive ideals. But it would appear that some of the president's supporters remain uncomfortable with the notion of giving to super PACs, which have been criticized by many on the left as giving a small number of people outsized influence over electoral politics.

Over the weekend, billionaire Warren Buffett announced that he was drawing the line at donating to super PACs, saying at his company's annual shareholders meeting that "I don't want to see democracy go in that direction."

"You have to take a stand some place," Buffett said, according to Bloomberg News.

Mr. Obama's re-election campaign announced its support earlier this year for the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action and said it would begin encouraging donors to support it, reversing the president's previous opposition to super PACs. The campaign defended its decision as tactical and said the president's re-election campaign was not going to unilaterally disarm in the face of half a billion dollars' worth of contributions aimed at defeating the president. But Priorities USA Action has raised just a fraction of the amount the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC has reported in 2012.

Soros' announcement suggests that additional high-profile donors may start to find ways to give to super PACs as the election nears. According to the New York Times, liberal donors are gearing up to inject up to $100 million into the race this fall via outside groups, despite initially tepid contributions from Democratic donors to outside groups. Like Soros, however, many are expected to contribute only toward organizations that promote grassroots organizing and turnout rather than groups that focus on running campaign ads on television.