The Atlantic

George Soros and the Demonization of Philanthropy

Conspiracy theories about him obscure the real concerns about how large-scale giving works today.
Source: Bernadett Szabo / Reuters

George Soros is an exceptionally busy man, at least according to right-wing conspiracy theorists. Just within the last year, he has been credited with single-handedly funding the Black Lives Matter and Antifa movements, as well as with bankrolling (as a false-flag operation) the white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville against which both of those groups mobilized. Soros has been accused of masterminding Colin Kaepernick’s NFL protest and the Women’s March, and with pulling the strings that led H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, to fire alt-right–aligned staffers. And last week, the supporters of the Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore alleged that Soros paid women to falsely accuse him of sexual assault.

Soros, of course, has been the subject of intense scrutiny for decades. Ever since he made $1 billion by shorting the British pound in 1992, the power Soros wields over financial markets has loomed large in the public imagination. By the early 2000s, when Soros had become one of the top funders of the Democratic Party—he once declared that he’d willingly trade his entire fortune to prevent President George W. Bush’s reelection, though in the end he only spent $27 million, an unprecedented sum at the time—he also became a partisan target for conservatives.

But it hasn’t been Soros’s financial buccaneering or even his political giving that have featured most prominently in the that over the last few years, he has turned over around $18 billion to the institutions through which he has channeled his philanthropy, the Open Society Foundations (OSF). The enormous gift was met as a confirmation of all the darkest fears stoked by his antagonists. Pointing out that Soros’s foundation would now rank as the second largest behind the Gates Foundation, the right-wing website Breitbart the news by referring to OSF as the “Death Star.”

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