Liberal billionaire George Soros's advocacy arm is ramping up its lobbying efforts this year, disclosure forms show.
The deep-pocketed Democratic financier increased lobbying expenditures on a range of foreign issues, including efforts to oppose laws described as a direct attack on his funding of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in his native country of Hungary.
The Open Society Policy Center, a D.C.-based nonprofit that focuses on advocacy efforts and is a separate entity from the Soros grant making Open Society Foundations, has spent nearly as much on lobbying in the first half of 2017 as the group did in the entirety of 2016.
The Open Society Policy Center reported spending $4.6 million in the first and second quarters, which runs from Jan. 1 to June 30, according its disclosure forms filed to the House of Representatives and the Senate. The group has three in-house lobbyists who lobby the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, National Security Council, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State.
Hungary's parliament approved the law that targets foreign-funded organizations in June, which they have said "can threaten the country's political and economic interests and interfere with the functioning of its institutions," according to text of the law.
Although the law does not mention Soros by name, politicians in Hungary previously said they wanted to "sweep out" organizations tied to Soros.
Soros's lobbying efforts have quietly skyrocketed in recent years.
The amount Soros spent on lobbying shot up to $11 million in 2013, a drastic increase from the $3.4 million the group had spent in 2012. The uptick could be attributed to the group's push for "comprehensive immigration reform" during this time.
The center upped its lobbying expenditures to $12.4 million in 2012. In 2015, the group spent $8.5 million. The amount spent on special interests dipped to $5.6 million in 2016.
Now the group's lobbying expenditures are trending upwards again. The center is on pace to spend $9.2 million this year.
Conflicts with mainstream media and politicians’, including Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe’s, characterization of events surrounding the white nationalist Unite the Right rally emerged quickly over the weekend.
One man, who was vacationing in the United States from Finland, arrived with one of the last waves to get into Emancipation Park before the event was shut down. From his perspective, “these two groups of very polarly opposed political and social and moral views were forced into conflict” by policing tactics. He recounted his experience to Breitbart News:
I was expecting to enter a peaceful protest to protect this monument and part of United States history from utter and total rewriting. I entered with people from the United States who were aware there were going to be counter-protesters. They promised to keep me safe, which they did. But what happened was, the police force, which should have kept the protesting parties separate, in fact funneled the right-wing protesters, the people defending the monument, right into Antifa, [making them run] a gauntlet of Antifa to the monument … Then – I don’t know the details of it – on dubious legal grounds, [the police] declared the gathering of right-wing protesters unlawful. We were forced to leave the venue and run another gauntlet.
Another Midwestern rally-goer, “Andrew,” in his early thirties, also came to the park with one of the early waves. His primary goal, he claims, was to stay out of the fray and capture video of the happenings. He spoke to Breitbart News about his own impressions of the policing:
We were told by police to walk around the perimeter, past one of the two parks where [the counter-protesters] had a permit to rally. Antifa came out and they started following us down a dead end where the police would not let us through to go to Lee Park, so we had to go back through the lines of [counter-protesters] … at that point a giant melee broke out. It’s hard to say who started it or how it started. It seemed to be some of the Black Lives Matter activists got in our faces and started assaulting us and the natural response was self-defense … What I didn’t expect was the inability or the refusal of the police department to respond to threats.