Soros group says ‘NGOs are non-partisan and do not engage in political activity’

Recently I responded to a EURACTIV.com interview with Heather Grabbe, the director of the George Soros-funded European Policy Institute, pushing back on claims that Hungary’s new NGO law discriminates and is closing the space for dissenting opinions.

I underlined that it’s about transparency and that the Venice Commission clearly affirmed in its opinion that ensuring the transparency of NGOs receiving foreign funding is a legitimate aim.

I was ready to leave it at that until Grabbe responded a few days ago with a claim so astonishing that it simply cannot be allowed to stand.

Referring to my recent blog post on a law being debated in Canada that would place restrictions on foreign funding of public affairs groups, she acknowledged that there are strong reasons to do that in cases where foreign funding is used “to influence the election of political candidates or parties, which are competing for public office and state power.” Then she said this:

“But the Hungarian law exempts political parties and their foundations. Non-governmental organisations are non-partisan and do not engage in this type of activity.”

That’s a staggering statement. First of all, the point about parties is inaccurate. Political parties and their foundations are prohibited from receiving foreign funding under the law regulating political parties.

So what do foreign interests do when they want to influence politics and public affairs but can’t have political parties directly on the payroll? Not infrequently, they turn to non-governmental organizations for the seeming legitimacy they offer. After all, NGOs are non-partisan and do not engage in politics, right?

Let’s take a look at some recent examples of ‘civic groups’ financed by George Soros that clearly seemed intent upon influencing the domestic politics of sovereign states.

In Macedonia, a group called Stop Operation Soros (SOS) has reported on how funds from the US Agency for International Development went through the Soros-funded Foundation Open Society Macedonia to support the center-left opposition party SDSM. The story became the subject of a letter from several US senators to the US secretary of state asking for clarification.

Prior to the 2014 parliamentary elections in Hungary, the Haza és Haladás Foundation – a sort of think tank formally aligned with the former PM Bajnai’s Együtt party – received significant funding from the Center for American Progress. Among the Center’s major donors? Yes, George Soros.

In other cases, the Soros mafia of organizations have quite explicit intentions. Prior to the 2014 European Elections, Soros gave more than 6 million USD to 90 different organizations to influence the outcome of the election.

I could continue. The list is extensive.

Critics of Hungary’s new law denounce it as a crackdown on NGOs, groups that wear the halo of “civic” and are perceived as neutral. But the argument that NGOs – particularly Soros-funded groups – are purely non-partisan and “do not engage in this type of activity” is simply not credible.