At a rally held on the same day as the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Rep. Pete Olson, the Republican in Texas’s 22nd District, claimed that billionaire George Soros was funding his Democratic opponent Sri Preston Kulkarni.
The comment came days after Soros had a pipe bomb mailed to him, and a Donald Trump supporter, Cesar Sayoc, was arrested in connection with the crime. Soros has long been a proxy for anti-Semitic rage, which was expressed in its most deadly fashion in U.S. history that Saturday morning.
Olson had previously called Kulkarni an “Indo-American carpetbagger.” (Kulkarni is, in fact, descended from Sam Houston, the founder of Texas.)
Olson has repeatedly expressed alarm at the fundraising ability of his opponent, who has collected a tremendous amount of small donations. Olson sees a conspiracy behind the grassroots mobilization against him. “I’ve been out-raised by double. Most incumbents have been out-raised by a double,” Olson said to a crowd in the district. “Now where’s that money coming from? Texas? George Soros! California! Massachusetts! Chicago! They think they can buy Texas and make us blue.”
Soros is not a donor to Kulkarni’s campaign. A large amount of the $1.2 million Kulkarni has raised comes from Americans of Indian descent living in Texas. Kulkarni’s novel strategy, detailed previously by The Intercept, has been to activate Asian-American communities that traditionally haven’t been targeted in politics, which could pay off in a rapidly changing district in the Houston suburbs.
Kulkarni takes no corporate PAC money, but has received support from the Hindu American PAC, the Indian American Impact Fund, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the PACs for Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and Grace Meng, D-N.Y. A $500 donation from the Drug Policy Reform Fund could be mistaken for the Soros-funded Drug Policy Alliance, but it has no relation and in fact is a tiny PAC with one donor that has made a grand total of two donations this election cycle.
Meanwhile, we know who funds Pete Olson: His campaign has raised nearly two-thirds of its money this cycle from corporate PACs. That includes Koch Industries, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, General Dynamics, Celanese Corporation, Dow Chemical, BNSF Railway, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Experian, UPS, Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Comerica, Archer Daniels Midland, Genentech, Molina Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, AbbVie, Amerisource Bergen, DaVita, Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, UnitedHealth, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP, KBR, Halliburton, Valero, Occidental Petroleum, Hess, Marathon Oil, Phillips 66, Union Pacific, Centerpoint Energy, Chesapeake Energy, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Exelon, Linde North America, PG&E, Sempra Energy, TransCanada, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Cisco, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Charter Communications, 21st Century Fox, Disney, Viacom, Comcast/NBCUniversal, CSX, BASF, the National Association of Home Builders, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the American Bankers Association, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, the National Rifle Association, the National Association of Realtors, and the law/lobbyist firms Holland & Knight, Hogan Lovells, Glover Park Group, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and McGuire Woods, which represent dozens of other corporations.
That is a partial list.
Olson has made dark suggestions about the source of Kulkarni’s campaign cash before, at a meet-and-greet for constituents in August. Seeming to not understand anything about ActBlue, the fundraising tool for Democratic candidates, Olson marvels in another video obtained by The Intercept that “somehow the other side has arranged for people to send money to this group in Massachusetts, to send it all across the country.” He further intimates that Kulkarni’s money must be “coming from overseas” or some other illegal means.
But the reference to Soros, on the day of the largest incident of anti-Semitic violence in American history, and days after Soros himself was targeted, fits with a disturbing pattern of incitement in the run-up to the election.
“We’ve seen all too recently that this kind of rhetoric can end in tragedy,” said Kulkarni in a statement. “These types of accusations are not only false but dangerous. We need leaders who know that their words matter, and will use them to bring us together rather than tear us apart.”
Olson’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.