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Building a Progressive Intellectual Infrastructure

"Soros group raises stakes in battle with US neo-cons

A group of billionaire philanthropists are to donate tens of millions more dollars to develop progressive political ideas in the US in an effort to counter the conservative ascendancy.

George Soros, who made his fortune in the hedge fund industry; Herb and Marion Sandler, the California couple who own a multi-billion-dollar savings and loan business; and Peter Lewis, the chairman of an Ohio insurance company, donated more than $63m (£34m) in the 2004 election cycle to organisations seeking to defeat George W. Bush.

At a meeting in San Francisco last month, the left-leaning billionaires agreed to commit an even larger sum over a longer period to building institutions to foster progressive ideas and people.

Far from being disillusioned by the defeat of John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, the billionaires have resolved to invest further in the intellectual future of the left, one person involved said.

Their commitment to provide new money comes amid criticism of the efforts of high-profile donors such as the Hungarian-born Mr Soros to sway US politics as well as doubts about the effectiveness of record funding in helping the Democratic cause in 2004.

The details of the San Francisco meeting are closely held. Mr Soros and his son Jonathan, the Sandlers and Mr Lewis asked aides to leave the room as they discussed the planned financial commitment.

But the still-evolving plan, according to one person involved, is "joint investment to build intellectual infrastructure".

The intention is to provide the left with organisations in Washington that can match the heft of the rightwing think-tanks such as Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute."

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