Republican senators are asking Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to investigate claims that U.S. taxpayer money is being used to back left-wing billionaire George Soros' political meddling and similar efforts overseas.
A letter sent Tuesday asked for a probe into how U.S. funds are being used by agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to back left-wing political groups in other countries.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, one of the co-signers, even said foreign officials and political leaders have come to him with "reports of U.S. activity in their respective countries."
He said in a statement: "This includes reports of diplomats playing political favorites, USAID funds supporting extreme and sometimes violent political activists, and the US Government working to marginalize the moderates and conservatives in leadership roles. ... This sort of political favoritism from our missions around the world is unacceptable.”
The letter to Tillerson also was signed by Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla.; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; David Perdue, R-Ga.; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; and Bill Cassidy, R-La. It followed a letter in February from GOP lawmakers asking about whether U.S. tax dollars have been used in recent years to fund Soros-backed projects in the small, conservative-led country of Macedonia.
In particular, USAID funding to Soro’s Open Society Foundations in Macedonia sparked concern that the U.S. Embassy has been taking sides in the country’s fiery political fights. The group's stated goal is “to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens” but critics claim it's a front for Soros’ political maneuverings.
The USAID website shows that between 2012 and 2016, USAID gave almost $5 million in taxpayer cash to FOSM for “The Civil Society Project,” which “aims to empower Macedonian citizens to hold government accountable.” USAID’s website links to www.soros.org.mk, and says the project trained hundreds of young Macedonians “in youth activism and the use of new media instruments.”
The State Department told lawmakers that in addition to that project, USAID has recently funded a new Civic Engagement Project which partners with four organizations, including FOSM. The cost is believed to be around $9.5 million.
A citizen’s initiative called “Stop Operation Soros” has also published a white paper alleging U.S. money has been funding violent riots in the streets, as well as a Macedonian version of Saul Alinsky’s far-left handbook “Rules for Radicals.”
After being dissatisfied with responses to letters sent to the U.S. ambassador, the senators wrote to Tillerson, noting not only the situation in Macedonia, but also what they describe as “a pattern of alarming activity in this volatile region” -- pointing in particular to the nearby country of Albania.
“Respected leaders from Albania have made similar claims of U.S. diplomats and Soros-backed organizations pushing for certain political outcomes in their country,” the letter said, citing a FOSM-backed push for Albanian judicial reform, which opponents say are aimed to give the socialist government full control over the country’s judiciary.
“The destabilizing effects of such actions in a NATO country are clear and the threat for further escalation eminent as Albania anticipates parliamentary elections later this year,” the letter said.
The senators went on to say that they are also concerned about reports coming in from countries in Africa and Latin America.
“We respectfully ask that you use your authority to investigate all funds associated with promoting democracy and governance and review the programs, accounts, and multiplicity of U.S. entities involved in such activities,” the letter said.
Conservative Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban last month expressed concern about Soros meddling in his country’s political fights, and warned about Soros’ “trans-border empire.” Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told Fox News last month that they hoped that with a change in administration in Washington, the Soros-led push against their government would decrease.
“I think it is no secret and everyone knows about the very close relationship between the Democrats and George Soros and his foundations. It is obvious that if Hillary Clinton had won then this pressure on us would be much stronger. With Donald Trump winning we have the hope that this pressure will be decreased on us,” he said.
Widely cited as an example of Soros’ influence during the Obama administration was a 2011 email (published by WikiLeaks) in which Soros urged Hillary Clinton to take action in Albania over recent demonstrations in the capital of Tirana.
Soros asked Clinton to “bring the full weight of the international community to bear on Prime Minister Berisha and opposition leader Edi Rama to forestall further public demonstrations and to tone down public pronouncements” and appoint a senior European official as mediator.
Within a few days, an envoy was dispatched.