The Hungarian press is buzzing today about an astonishing revelation that George Soros spent 14 million dollars in 2017 lobbying the US government against Hungary. The disclosure, which first appeared on the news site Origo and is based on official filings, says that the Open Society Policy Center, the Soros network’s lobbying arm, spent the equivalent of approximately 3.5 billion HUF lobbying both houses of Congress, the State Department, the Defense Department and the National Security Council and refers specifically to issues directly concerning Hungary.
I’ve written about Soros efforts to lobby institutions in Brussels, but this is extraordinary. Here’s what we know from the report.
The Open Society Policy Center, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C. “aimed at influencing U.S. government policy on domestic and international issues” filed a report saying that between April 1 and June 30, 2017, OSPC carried out lobbying activity in both houses of the US Congress, the State Department, Department of Defense and the National Security Council. The expenses related to the lobbying activity, according to the report, amounted to 2.86 million USD. There’s also a filing for the third quarter of 2017 that reports expenses of 1.25 million USD, and a report on the fourth quarter of 2017 that lists 10.3 million USD in lobbying expenses.
That’s a total of 14.4 million USD in lobbying activity by the Open Society Policy Center over the course of only nine months in 2017.
What was Open Society lobbying the US government about? A lot of things Hungarian, it seems.
The lobbying reports, which are required in the United States under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, lists many issues including the following:
Lobbying on a resolution in the House of Representatives “supporting a democratic Hungary and reaffirming the long-standing and mutually-beneficial relationship between the United States and Hungary.” The resolution, which is now with the Committee on Foreign Affairs, claims that “Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his ruling party “Fidesz”, has increasingly moved towards authoritarianism in word and action.” The resolution “condemns Hungary's movement toward a less free and democratic society” and “urges Hungary to reverse laws and policies that curtail individual rights and basic freedoms”.
Lobbying on a resolution in the House “supporting international academic freedom.” The resolution, which is now with the Committee on Foreign Affairs, does not mention CEU by name but addresses “discrimination or harassment by foreign governments” and calls to defend “American-accredited” universities operating in other countries.
Wait, there’s more. The forms also list lobbying on:
Amendments to the Higher Education Act in Hungary, which they refer to as LexCEU
A bill on Foreign Funded Organizations in Hungary, which they refer to as LexNGO
These are not the only issues listed on the forms. The Open Society Policy Center was busy lobbying on other vital issues as well – like human trafficking – and the report does not specify the amount of expenses recorded for each topic. But these issues, which explicitly concern Hungary, appear clearly in the reports for those nine months.
To sum up: In 2017, the Open Society Policy Center, part of the Soros network, spent over 14 million USD to lobby the federal government of the United States, including Congress, the State Department, Defense Department and NSC on issues that included several directly related to Hungary – even a piece of legislation that condemns Hungary’s supposed backsliding to “a less free and democratic society” and “urges Hungary to reverse laws and policies that curtail individual rights and basic freedoms”
Mainstream media outlets frequently refer to George Soros in benign terms as the “billionaire investor and philanthropist” and to his Open Society network as a charitable organization. To depict Soros’ financial support and the work of his foundation as charity is just not serious. It blatantly ignores the kinds of causes and campaigns that Soros money supports and turns a blind idea to the fact that the Soros network is brazenly political, pushing an agenda based on the “open society” ideology. Lobbying is of course legal in the US, and George Soros is free to spend his money lobbying, if he so chooses, but let’s be clear about a few things.
Fortunately, despite this lobbying effort, Hungary’s relationship with the United States, as Minister Péter Szijjártó pointed out recently, is working well. But this kind of activity is precisely why Hungary’s new NGO legislation, including the bills proposed last week to stop illegal immigration, demand greater transparency from NGOs. This kind of activity should have plenty of public scrutiny.
The next time you see George Soros referred to as a philanthropist, remember that this work is not about charity.