George Soros, other wealthy donors urge 2020 Democrats to embrace wealth tax

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Hedge Fund Manager and Democratic Philanthropist George Soros (AP Photo/Thomas Peter, Pool)

Headlined by George Soros and Abigail Disney, a group of billionaires and multi-millionaires on Monday penned an open letter to 2020 presidential candidates asking that they support a wealth tax on the richest Americans.

In a Medium post, the wealthy group argued a wealth tax would help address climate change and income inequality while strengthening Democratic institutions. They advocated specifically for a proposal from 2020 contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that would impose new taxes on those with $50 million or more in assets and raise an estimated $2.75 billion over 10 years.

All told, the 18 wealthy Americans who signed the letter have contributed a whopping $80 million to federal Democratic candidates and groups — and just $34,500 to Republican causes — since 1990, potentially giving them sway over the crowded field of 2020 Democrats.

Although the letter indicated it was not an endorsement of any presidential candidate, all but two of its authors have contributed to Warren at some point in her political career. Investors and philanthropists Liesel Pritzker Simmons, Stephen Silberstein and Ian Simmons each gave $2,700 to Warren to start the 2020 cycle. Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and his husband, political activist Sean Eldridge, each gave Warren $2,800, this cycle’s maximum contribution.

George Soros stands out as the top donor among the letter’s authors, giving $47 million — more than half the total — to Democratic causes since 1990. He shelled out nearly $19 million in 2018, making him the 8th most generous donor of the cycle, and sent millions to major Democratic-aligned groups such as Priorities USA Action and Senate Majority PAC. His son Alexander Soros, another signee on the letter, gave $2 million of his own to the Senate-focused Democratic super PAC.

The letter comes as Democrats increasingly cite income inequality as a major campaign issue. A recent Federal Reserve report found that the wealthiest Americans have seen their wealth increase dramatically over the last few decades, while the bottom half of Americans have seen their relative wealth fall.

Warren’s wealth tax proposal currently polls well among Americans — even among a decent number of millionaires. A June CNBC poll of 750 millionaires found that 60 percent supported Warren’s wealth tax plan, including 88 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of independents and 36 percent of Republicans. The same respondents indicated they strongly opposed taxing unrealized capital gains and eliminating deductions.

This isn’t the first time millionaires have come together to advocate for higher taxes. A number of wealthy individuals, led by former investment firm manager Morris Pearl, created a group called the Patriotic Millionaires in 2010 to push for more taxes on the rich.

Some of Warren’s rivals have embraced the idea of a wealth tax. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg said a wealth tax “makes sense,” while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he would fight for a wealth tax during a recent Fox News town hall.

Other candidates aren’t so sure. Former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), the wealthiest Democratic primary candidate, said Warren’s wealth tax plan would be vulnerable to constitutional challenges while entrepreneur Andrew Yang said he would prefer a value-added tax. Some experts say rich Americans will find ways to avoid a wealth tax, as they have in other countries where such taxes have been implemented.

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