A nonprofit funded by billionaire George Soros gave $140 million to political groups in 2021

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Hungarian investor and philanthropist George Soros answers questions after giving a speech on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos on May 24, 2022.

Fabrice Coffrini | AFP| Getty Images

A nonprofit funded by billionaire George Soros quietly gave $140 million to advocacy groups and ballot initiatives in 2021, plus another $60 million to similar charities.

Soros, who has personally donated $170 million in the 2022 midterms to Democratic candidates and campaigns as well, released most of the rest through the Open Society Policy Center — a 501(c) nonprofit ( 4) which is under the Soros funded Open Society. A network of foundations, according to a copy of their 2021 tax filing, obtained by CNBC and this is the most recent data available. The Open Society Policy Center also distributed $138 million to advocacy groups and causes in 2020. Two of Soros’ children sit on its board, the tax filings and website show.

The donations bring Soros’ donations to political campaigns and causes since January 2020 to about half a billion dollars – at least – most of it directed through dark money non-profit organizations and going largely to the attack of political causes compatible with the Democratic Party.

Soros’ non-profit donations don’t always go directly to political causes. The money sometimes flows from one of his nonprofits, then to another, before being spent on advertising, organizing and social media campaigns that reach voters directly.

Many of the Open Society Policy Center’s grants in 2021 were not necessarily earmarked to help swing the midterm elections, according to the institution’s website. Meanwhile, Tom Watson, editorial director at the Open Society Foundations, acknowledged in an email to CNBC that “certainly some OSPC grants that have gone to organizations working to combat the ban on voting, supporting voter registration and expanding civic participation.” These are all core Democratic principles.

A complex network of non-profits

The core network includes several affiliated 501(c)(4) organizations, a type of nonprofit under the US tax code that is allowed to engage in political activities, as well as 501 charitable organizations ( c) (3) more traditional, its website and presentation of fees.

All non-profits fall under Soros’ Open Society Foundations network, which spans the globe. It describes itself as “the world’s largest private funder of independent organizations working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights,” and has dozens of offices in the US, the Dept. Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

It also runs the Open Society University Network, which includes more than two dozen colleges around the world, supporting research projects through its Democracy Institute, among other initiatives another. Although not illegal, the complex network of associated non-profits, research funds and charities funded by Soros restricts the source of the donations.

Through the network, Soros has donated more than $32 billion over the years, according to his website. It says it provides “thousands of grants each year to build inclusive and vibrant democracies,” with active projects in more than 120 countries.

Rich Special Interests

“Wealthy special interests and individuals try to hide their influence in elections, including by funding politically active nonprofits, because they know the important message,” said Aaron McKean, an attorney at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. “Voters have a right to know who is trying to influence elections so they can make informed choices when they will fill out the ballot.”

The Open Society Policy Center’s 2021 budget was funded by a single grant of $196 million from the Open Society Foundation network, according to foundation officials. A 501 (c) (3) affiliated charitable organization called the Open Society Institute received a donation of $1.78 billion in QECL shares from the Foundation to Promote Open Society, which was founded and is funded by the billionaire businessman.

In the US, the Open Society Policy Center has donated to a number of politically active groups and causes since the start of the 2020 election cycle, including $4.5 million in September to Reproductive Freedom for the -All, according to data from the nonpartisan watchdog OpenSecrets. The campaign supported Michigan’s successful ballot initiative called Proposition 3 which included abortion rights in the state constitution.

The group also gave $1 million in 2020 to a campaign supporting an Oklahoma prison sentencing ballot measure titled Yes on 805. The ballot campaign it would have ended re-sentencing penalties for non-violent crimes in the state; he did not succeed in the 2020 election.

Helping the Democrats

Most of Soros’ personal contributions during the 2022 cycle went to two super PACs: Democracy PAC and Democracy PAC II, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Both of these organizations are run by the son of billionaire Alexander Soros, who also sits on the boards of the Open Society Institute and the Open Society Policy Center. Politico reported that these PACs plan to help Democratic candidates and organizations in 2022, and in future election cycles.

Records show that the Democratic PACs, which by law can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, gave millions of dollars in the midterms to groups that actively helped Democrats run for office. , including support for the Senate Majority PAC and the House Majority PAC.

Other Open Society Policy Center grants listed on their 2021 990:

  • America Voted: $16.9 million
    A voting rights group focused on educating people on how to vote by mail.
  • Justice Request: $.4.5 million
    A liberal legal advocacy group. He recently raised just under $6 million, according to tax returns obtained by Politico. Justice Demand announced a $1 million ad purchase this year in support of the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
  • Equis Labs: $6.48 million
    An organization dedicated to increasing Latino voting.
  • USA Forward’s Future Action: $5.5 million
    This 501(c)(4) organization donated more than $60 million in the 2020 election to its sister PAC, Future Forward USA, which spent millions supporting Biden’s run. The Open Policy Center’s website says its 2021 grants were intended, in part, to “support policy advocacy on the Build Back Together legislative package and global immunization campaign.” A refinanced version of the bill was renamed the Inflation Reduction Act; it was approved and signed into law in August.
  • Sixteen Thirty Assets: $23.9 million
    The group operates as a “dark” money fund for “progressive reformers” and groups that often align with the Democratic Party. It provides operational support, such as HR and legal resources, to advanced candidates. It recently raised over $189 million and made $107 million in donations.

Emerson Morrow, a spokesperson for America Votes told CNBC that funding from the Open Society Policy Center “has provided critical support to the mission of Vote America.” The group says it has embraced “voter prevention and engaging new and hard-to-reach voters” in 2021, with a focus on expanding voting access in the key states of Nevada, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Open Society Policy Center’s website lists one grant of $23.9 million to the group in 2021 to “support nonpartisan voter engagement in several states,” according to the site. their web.

America Votes, a 501(c)(4), raised more than $245 million and gave out more than $170 million in donations from July 2020 through June 2021, according to its most recent tax filing . Among his top contributions was a $14 million donation to Family Friendly Action PAC, a super PAC that spent $7.2 million supporting Democratic candidates running for Congress during the 2022 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets. He also gave $9.7 million to Black PAC, a super PAC that spent $9.5 million in the recent midterms supporting Democrats.

Empowering advocates

Amy Kurtz, president of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, pointed to the Open Society Foundations website for more information about her donations from the Soros-backed groups. The Sixteen Thirty Fund raised more than $189 million in 2021, according to its latest 990 disclosure.

“At a time when the extreme right wing is better funded than ever and threatening our rights and democratic institutions like never before, Sixteen Thirty Fund meets these threats,” said Kurtz in an email. “As a fiscal supporter, Sixteen Thirty Fund empowers advocates and philanthropists to quickly and effectively launch initiatives to address the most pressing challenges it’s tough today. of all Americans.”

All other organizations mentioned in this story that received funding from the Open Society Policy Center did not return requests for comment.

Correction: The title and two references in the story have been updated to correct the year the grants were awarded. They were made in 2021.

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