WASHINGTON – Billionaire philanthropist George Soros (search) has asked the House ethics committee to investigate House Speaker Dennis Hastert (search) over comments suggesting that Soros could be receiving money from illegal drug groups.
"This kind of insinuation - that a private United States citizen was in league with drug cartels and may be receiving funds derived from criminal activity — has no place in public discourse," Soros wrote Tuesday to the chair and top Democrat on the panel, Reps. Joel Hefley (search), R-Col., and Alan Mollohan (search), D-W.Va.
During an Aug. 29 interview on "Fox News Sunday," Hastert, R-Ill., questioned the source of the 73-year-old financier's wealth: "I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where — if it comes from overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from." He made similar comments in an Aug. 23 radio interview.
Soros said Hastert has since said he was misunderstood, that he was talking about groups to which Soros — a supporter of legalizing marijuana — gives money.
But "the indisputable fact is that he alleged that I might be receiving 'drug money' from 'drug groups,'" Soros said.
Hastert's office had no immediate comment on the ethics complaint. The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, under its rules, normally accepts complaints only from House members or from outsiders when members certify that the complaints merit review.
Soros has earned the enmity of Republicans because of his generous contributions to liberal activist groups campaigning to defeat President Bush.
After Hastert made his comments, 11 House Democrats led by Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, wrote Soros inviting him to speak on Capitol Hill.
"We have been particularly troubled by the McCarthyite attacks that have been made on you by some American politicians, including colleagues of ours, who have gone far beyond the reasonable bounds of civil discourse in their efforts to discredit you," they wrote.
Soros, a native of communist Hungary, arrived in the United States in 1956 and made his fortune through the Soros Fund Management, a private, international investment firm. He has given away billions to various causes, including groups promoting democracy in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.