George Soros, an influential billionaire often cast as a shadowy political operative by conservative critics, is at the center of a new controversy surrounding the possibility that taxpayer funds went to a group he financially supported.
According to an investigation by Judicial Watch, The U.S. Agency for International Development under the Obama administration earmarked almost $9 million to fund the East-West Management Institute’s work in Albania.
The conservative legal watchdog group cited 32 pages from documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act filed in May 2017. That information indicates the funding was secured in 2016 through USAID’s Justice for All campaign.
In describing that campaign, USAID said the goal is increased efficiency and transparency within the Albanian justice system. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, however, came to a different conclusion.
In its report, the group claimed “that money was used specifically to give the Albanian socialist government greater control of the judiciary system.”
Fitton echoed that belief in a statement on the matter earlier this week.
“The Obama administration quietly spent at least $9 million in U.S. taxpayers’ dollars in direct collusion with left-wing billionaire George Soros’ backing of a socialist government in Albania,” he said.
According to Fitton, the U.S. Department of State “allowed the Soros operation to help direct taxpayer funds to other groups,” an alleged act he called “particularly outrageous.”
In a statement to Fox News following the Judicial Watch report, a USAID source noted that the agency did not fund the Soros-backed Open Society Foundation’s operation in Albania. Citing a February 2017 report, though, Fitton found evidence that the State Department did grant the foundation “direct input” into how funds were disseminated.
A spokesperson for the Open Society Foundation lamented the focus on partisanship in what was described as a strictly humanitarian effort.
“For decades, there has been broad bipartisan agreement in Washington, D.C. on the need to promote democracy and human rights abroad,” the source told Fox News. “Of late there has been an unfortunate and misguided effort to politicize this process.”
The statement concluded that both the U.S. government and the foundation “shared an interest in helping Albania and other similarly situated countries transition from communism to democracy, and in promoting an independent judiciary.”
The source quoted State Department records showing that the U.S. embassy in Tirana, Albania’s capital city, “has not received any funds from the Open Society Foundation to support any projects or activities” and that likewise it has not “provided any funds to the Open Society Foundation to support their projects or activities.”
One memo from about two years ago, however, prompted Fitton to conclude that there was some inappropriate collaboration.
That document reportedly shows that an Open Society Foundation poll was sponsored by the Tirana embassy with the goal of measuring Albanian “knowledge, support and expectations on justice reform.”
The results of that survey found that more than 9 in 10 respondents expressed either full or partial support for judicial reform.
Less than a year later, Judicial Watch found that the Open Society Foundation and the U.S. embassy again worked together to conduct a similar poll.
Fitton claimed that his group’s latest investigation into Soros reveals he has been improperly “receiving taxpayer support to advance his radical left agenda and undermine freedom here at home and abroad.”
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