Non-profit

Open Society Policy Center

Website:

www.opensocietypolicycenter.org

Location:

Washington, DC

Tax ID:

52-2028955

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $16,759,566
Expenses: $24,125,262
Assets: $8,526,467

Formation:

1997

Type:

Nonprofit Lobbying Organization

President:

Stephen Rickard

The Open Society Policy Center (OSPC) is a lobbying group associated with the Open Society Network and the Open Society Foundations, the principal advocacy philanthropic efforts of left-of-center financial billionaire George Soros. Longtime left-of-center political and advocacy operative Stephen Rickard works as the Center’s executive director.

Since 2002, OSPC has spent more than $152 million on grantmaking and lobbying activities. More than $96 million of that amount was spent since the Trump Administration came into office. Nearly one-third of that amount, or $48.47 million, was spent in the 2019 cycle alone. [1] That year, OSPC became the second biggest spender on federal lobbying in the United States, after the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, beating out traditionally high-spending lobbying groups such as the National Association of Realtors, the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the American Hospital Association, and health insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield. [2]

OSPC lobbies and make grants to other left-of-center advocacy groups in several areas, including foreign policy and national security, immigration, criminal justice, election reform, and “reproductive and sexual justice.” [3] It has taken a lead role in opposing judicial and executive branch nominees in both the Trump and George W. Bush administrations.

Nominations

Trump Administration

In 2018, OPSC gave $2 million in grants to left-wing groups to advocate against President Donald Trump’s judicial nominations. The grantees included $1,000,000 to Planned Parenthood Action Fund, $150,000 to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, $150,000 to the Committee for a Fair Judiciary, $350,000 to Color of Change (a part of which was designated for voting rights advocacy), $200,000 to the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR), and $100,000 to Maine People’s Alliance. [4][5]

Between 2012 and 2016, OSPC gave more than $2 million to the Sixteen Thirty Fund,[6] which was characterized as one of the “key groups founded to resist Trump” by the Atlantic. The Sixteen Thirty Fund sponsors Demand Justice, one of the leading groups that has worked to oppose Trump judicial nominees. [7]

In 2018, OSPC lobbied against the nomination of David B. Cornstein to be U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, Gina Haspel to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and Michael Pompeo to be Secretary of State. [8] OSPC executive director Rickard wrote a letter accusing Haspel of running CIA “black sites” and destroying evidence that CIA agents had tortured military detainees. [9]

Obama Administration

In 2011, OSPC joined the Alliance for Justice and 75 other largely left-leaning organizations calling for return to “regular order” for judicial nominees in the U.S. Senate and “swift confirmation of President Obama’s judicial nominees.” [10]

George W. Bush Administration

OSPC also worked to oppose Bush administration nominees. In 2005, OSPC organized a coalition of left-leaning religious leaders and academics to oppose the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to be U.S. Attorney General. George Hunsinger of Princeton Theological Seminary, leader of the OSPC-organized group, told a press briefing that Gonzales “was at the heart of deliberations in high places about skirting the Geneva Conventions and international law. The question was not how to prevent abuse, but how far interrogations could go in getting away with it. It was but a short step from there to Abu Ghraib.” Gonzales was ultimately confirmed. [11]

The next year, OPSC organized a group of 20 organizations working in foreign policy to oppose the possible re-nomination of John Bolton to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton had been appointed to the position during a Congressional recess but faced a tough nomination fight; he ultimately withdrew in the face of opposition from Senate Democrats. [12]

Iraq War and Anti-Terror Policies

Throughout the George W. Bush administration, OSPC and persons associated with it were sharply critical both of the administration’s Iraq policies and domestic anti-terror provisions. [13]

The same year, then-OSPC head Morton Halperin (now a senior advisor at the Open Society Foundations) argued that the United Nations needed to take the lead on the post-war Iraq reconstruction. [14]

Two years later, Joseph Onek, a former State Department official in the Clinton administration and OSPC security analyst, argued before a Congressional committee that “it is obvious that the government’s expanded information gathering and data mining systems [under the USA PATRIOT Act] will focus on Muslim-Americans.” Because of this, Onek proposed “that information gathered for anti-terrorist purposes not be used against individuals except in proceedings that directly relate to terrorism or other very, very serious crimes,” and not in immigration or other criminal prosecutions. “Unless this restriction is imposed,” Onek argued, the unfairness of using intelligence gathered from open sources “will breed discontent in the Muslim community and will undermine the fight against terrorism.” [15]

Hungary

The organization has also lobbied officials in the State Department and Congress regarding laws passed by the Hungarian government that George Soros opposes and that impact his ability to carry out advocacy in the country.

In 2017, Open Society Policy Center lobbied State Department officials and the Congress against a Hungarian law preventing Central European University from offering degrees in both Hungary and the United States. This legislation scuttled plans by the university to open a campus in Budapest. [16] The university is funded by Soros and was opposed by “members of the ruling Fidesz party” who “portrayed the new measures as a fight for national sovereignty.” The government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has opposed Soros’s efforts to influence Hungarian politics through international organizations such as the Central European University. [17]

In 2018, OSPC also lobbied the State Department and Congress against a “Stop Soros” law passed by the Fidesz-controlled Hungarian parliament that limits the activities of Soros-funded foreign entities that advocate on behalf of migrants entering Hungary and requires those groups to disclose their funding. [18]

Immigration Reform

Between 2012 and 2013, OSPC more than tripled its spending from $3 million to $11.25 million, largely to support liberal expansionist “comprehensive” immigration reform. Its largest grantee was the Alliance for Citizenship, a coalition of labor unions, liberal immigration advocacy groups, left-leaning community organizing groups, and faith-based groups. [19]

Throughout 2017 and 2018, OSPC lobbied Congress in favor of the DREAM Act, an attempt to provide permanent legal residence and a path to citizenship for a class of presently-illegal immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children. When efforts to pass the legislation failed in 2018, OSPC senior advisor Angela Kelley told the Los Angeles Times, “If there was helium in the balloon, I think it has been zapped,” and blamed Republicans for having “no clear plan…. Democrats would be wise to hang back and see what they come to them with.” [20] The group also lobbied against funding for a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. [21]

In 2019, OSPC spent more than $100,000 lobbying Congress to pass S.2144, the SECURE Act, and H.R.6, the American Dream and Promise Act. These bills would have directed the Attorney General to adjust the status of any immigrant who had been given temporary protected status prior to 2017 to permit them to stay in the United States as a legal permanent resident. Neither of these bills had been enacted as of April 2020. [22]

Foreign Policy

OSPC lobbies for what a spokesman for the organization called “a progressive foreign policy.” In 2017, the group “reported lobbying on a bill (S.2047) that would withhold funds for U.S. military action against North Korea unless authorized by Congress.” [23] In 2019, it also lobbied for a bill, H.R. 1004, that sought to prohibit U.S. military action in Venezuela, and for H.R. 2037, which would require the Director of National Intelligence to investigate and report on the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Kashoggi by persons associated with the Saudi Arabian government in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. [24]

Criminal Justice

OSPC has made grants and lobbied on behalf of changes to federal and state criminal sentencing laws and supported other aspects of criminal justice reform efforts.

In 2010, OSPC supported the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine and provided sentence reductions for many inmates sentenced under the prior laws. The bill passed the U.S. Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama. [25]

In 2014, OSPC gave $1.5 million to support California Proposition 47, which reclassified many state felony crimes as misdemeanors and expanded opportunities for expungement. OSPC also “funneled resources into Vote Safe, an organization created in 2013 to help get Prop. 47 off the ground,” and Soros retained a seat on the board of the organization. [26]

In 2018, OSPC supported Issue 1 in Ohio, an unsuccessful ballot initiative that would have cut prison time for offenders who completed rehabilitation and education programs, and reduced low-level drug possession felonies to misdemeanors with no jail time. [27]

OSPC has lobbied Congress in favor of the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2019, which would end transfer of surplus military equipment from the Pentagon to state and local law enforcement agencies, and the Marijuana Justice Act of 2019, an effort by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to legalize marijuana by delisting it as a prohibited “Schedule I” drug. [28]

Redistricting and Election Law

In 2012, OSPC gave $500,000 to groups that opposed a proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment requiring voters to show identification at the polls. [29] The amendment failed.

In 2016, OSPC gave $300,000 to groups in San Diego that supported that city’s proposed Measures K and L, which require the top two vote getters in city elections in June primaries to go to a runoff in November (previously, city laws had permitted some officials to avoid a November election if they received an outright majority in the nonpartisan June primaries) and also required all city-wide initiatives to be approved in November and not June elections. Because these measures pushed these elections into higher-turnout November elections, the changes appeared “likely, at least in the short term, to help Democrats and hurt Republicans.” Both measures were approved. [30]

OSPC also gave $300,000 to a group that supported Amendment 1 in Missouri in 2018. The amendment withdrew the power to redraw legislative districts from the state legislature and gave it to an independent demographer hired by the state auditor. [31]

The same year, OSPC supported Question 1 in Maine, which sought to bring a “ranked choice” voting system in federal and state elections in that state. OSPC founder George Soros’s son Jonathan Soros also gave $100,000 to support the initiative. [32]

People

Stephen Rickard is the executive director of OSPC. He is also the director of Foreign Policy Constituency Building at the Open Society Foundations, one of the Soros Network’s grantmaking institutions. Rickard previously served as Washington director for Amnesty International USA. He served as the senior advisor in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of South Asian Affairs during the Clinton administration and worked for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rickard received his law degree from Yale Law School, an MPA from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and a bachelor’s degree from Adrian College. [33]

Members of the board of OSPC include chair Patrick Gaspard, who is president of the Open Society Foundations, former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa in the Obama administration, former executive director of the Democratic National Committee, and national political director for Obama for America in 2008. Other members include former U.S. Representative Thomas Perriello (D-VA) and two of George Soros’s children, Andrea Soros Colombel and Alexander Soros. [34]

References

  1. “Open Society Policy Center.” Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed April 11, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/totals?id=D000055020. ^
  2. “Top Spenders 2019.” Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed April 15, 2020. ^
  3. “About Us.” Open Society Policy Center. Accessed April 15, 2020. https://opensocietypolicycenter.org/about-us/. ^
  4. “Soros Fuels Dark Money Judicial Group That Fights Kavanaugh, Trump Nominations.” Washington Free Beacon. September 9, 2019. Accessed April 15, 2020. https://freebeacon.com/politics/soros-fuels-dark-money-judicial-group-that-fights-kavanaugh-trump-nominations/. ^
  5. “OSPC Summary of Lobbying Activities: 2018, Third Quarter.” Open Society Policy Center. Accessed April 15, 2020. https://opensocietypolicycenter.org/reporting/ospc-summary-of-lobbying-activities-2018-third-quarter/. ^
  6. Steven J. Allen. “Kavanaugh and the Revenge of the Clinton Gang.” Capital Research Center. Oct. 5, 2018. Accessed April 11, 2020. https://capitalresearch.org/article/kavanaugh-and-the-revenge-of-the-clinton-gang/. ^
  7. Daniel Pozen. “The Tax-Code Shift That’s Changing Liberal Activism.” The Atlantic. November 27, 2018. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/11/501c3-501c4-activists-and-tax-code/576364/ ^
  8. “OSPC Summary of Lobbying Activities: 2018, First Quarter.” Open Society Policy Center. July 27, 2018. Accessed April 15, 2020. https://opensocietypolicycenter.org/reporting/ospc-summary-of-lobbying-activities-2018-first-quarter/. ^
  9. Stephen Rickard. “Letters: Re ‘CIA agent’s past casts a shadow,’ April 1.” Los Angeles Times. April 4, 2018. Accessed on Westlaw (2018 WLNR 10102011) on April 15, 2020. ^
  10. “Alliance For Justice Joins 75 Organizations To Call On Senate To Return To ‘Regular Order’ On Judicial Nominations.” Alliance for Justice. Feb. 15, 2011. Accessed on Westlaw on April 14, 2020. ^
  11. Pamela Hess. “Gonzales Nomination Questioned.” UPI News. January 4, 2005. Accessed on Westlaw April 15, 2020. ^
  12. “20 Organizations Opposed to Bolton Nomination.” Open Society Policy Center. Sept. 6, 2006. Accessed April 15, 2020. http://www.opensocietypolicycenter.org/pub/doc_119/September%205%20Bolton%20Org%20Sign-On.pdf. ^
  13. “Full-Page New York Times Ad ‘We Deserve the Truth’ to Run July 27, 2003.” U.S. Newswire. July 25, 2003. Accessed on Westlaw April 15, 2020. ^
  14. “Changing Course in Iraq.” PBS News Hour. Sept. 3, 2003. Accessed April 15, 2020. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/changing-course-in-iraq. ^
  15. “U.S. Representative Robert R. Simmons (R-CT) Holds Hearing on Open-Source Information Sharing.” CQ-Roll Call Congressional Transcripts. Aug, 5, 2005. Accessed on Westlaw (2005 WLNR 29722655) on April 15, 2020. ^
  16. “OSPC Summary of Lobbying Activities: 2019, First Quarter.” Open Society Policy Center. May 1, 2019. https://opensocietypolicycenter.org/reporting/ospc-summary-of-lobbying-activities-2019-first-quarter/. ^
  17. Lili Bayer. “Hungary passes bill targeting Soros-funded university.” Politico. April 4, 2017. Accessed April 15, 2020. https://www.politico.eu/article/hungary-ceu-story/. ^
  18. “OSPC Summary of Lobbying Activities: 2018, First Quarter.” Open Society Policy Center. July 27, 2018. Accessed April 15, 2020. https://opensocietypolicycenter.org/reporting/ospc-summary-of-lobbying-activities-2018-first-quarter/. ^
  19. Holly Yeager. “Soros group triples outlays on lobbying.” Washington Post. February 24, 2014. Accessed on Westlaw (2014 WLNR 5047961) on April 14, 2020. ^
  20. Brian Bennet. “Revived push to shield ‘Dreamers’ fizzles out.” Los Angeles Times. March 8, 2018. Accessed on Westlaw (2018 WLNR 7179540) April 15, 2020. ^
  21. Noah Bierman and Brian Bennett. “Barriers keep border wall in promise stage analysis.” Hartford Courant. May 2, 2017. Accessed on Westlaw (2017 WLNR 13491588) April 15, 2020. ^
  22. “Issues Lobbied by Open Society Policy Center, 2019.” Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed April 15, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/clients/issues?cycle=2019&id=D000055020&spec=IMM&specific_issue=Immigration#specific_issue. ^
  23. “Group Backed by Liberal George Soros Posts Uptick in Lobbying.” CQ News. Jan. 22, 2018. Accessed on Westlaw (2018 WLNR 2802479) on April 15, 2020. ^
  24. “OSPC Summary of Lobbying Activities: 2019, Second Quarter.” Open Society Policy Center. July 29, 2019, Accessed April 15, 2020. https://opensocietypolicycenter.org/reporting/ospc-summary-of-lobbying-activities-2019-second-quarter/. ^
  25. “Local activist to celebrate new crack law.” Birmingham Press-Register. Sept. 06, 2010. Accessed April 11, 2020. https://www.al.com/live/2010/09/political_skinny_local_activis.html. ^
  26. James Poulos. “Few donors, big support for Prop. 47.” Cal Watchdog. Nov. 4, 2014. Accessed April 11, 2020. https://calwatchdog.com/2014/11/04/few-donors-big-support-for-prop-47/. ^
  27. Holly Shively. “Dayton Chamber announces opposition to Ohio Issue 1.” Dayton Daily News. Oct. 2, 2018. Accessed April 11, 2020. https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-chamber-announces-opposition-ohio-issue/0M2sW6VsFFC3KyfEgzGVeP/. ^
  28. “OSPC Summary of Lobbying Activities: 2019, First Quarter.” Open Society Policy Center. May 1, 2019. https://opensocietypolicycenter.org/reporting/ospc-summary-of-lobbying-activities-2019-first-quarter/ ^
  29. Doug Belden. “Voter ID: Amendment opponents outraise supporters.” St. Paul Pioneer-Press. Oct. 29, 2012. Accessed April 14, 2020. https://www.twincities.com/2012/10/29/voter-id-amendment-opponents-outraise-supporters/ ^
  30. David Garrick. “Measures K, L would boost power of November electorate.” San Diego Union-Tribune. Oct. 22, 2016. Accessed April 11, 2020. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sd-me-november-runoff-20161021-story.html.    ^
  31. Tyler Wornell. “Amendment 1 would change the way Missouri legislative districts are drawn.” Joplin Globe. Oct. 13, 2018. Accessed April 11, 2020. https://www.joplinglobe.com/news/local_news/amendment-would-change-the-way-missouri-legislative-districts-are-drawn/article_5a535514-5f48-5de5-8589-ac942929f551.html. ^
  32. Darren Fishell. “Who’s paying to convince Mainers that ranked-choice voting suits them.” Bangor Daily News. June 8, 2018. Accessed on Westlaw (2018 WLNR 17785448) on April 11, 2020. ^
  33. “Stephen Rickard.” Open Society Foundations. Accessed April 15, 2020. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/who-we-are/staff/stephen-rickard. ^
  34. “Our Board.” Open Society Policy Center. Accessed April 15, 2020. https://opensocietypolicycenter.org/about-us/. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Stephen Rickard
    Executive Director
  See an error? Let us know!

Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: June 1, 1997

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Dec Form 990 $16,759,566 $24,125,262 $8,526,467 $6,476,386 N $16,759,566 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $12,000,000 $12,680,864 $10,044,233 $656,453 N $12,000,000 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990 $17,000,000 $10,233,652 $10,591,160 $689,090 N $17,000,000 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $8,000,000 $12,590,145 $4,243,090 $1,107,368 N $8,000,000 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $18,000,000 $11,584,378 $8,175,292 $449,425 N $18,000,000 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $5,200,000 $4,558,517 $1,631,954 $321,709 N $5,200,000 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $3,000,015 $2,706,718 $1,171,075 $502,313 N $3,000,000 $0 $15 $0 PDF
    2010 Dec Form 990 $2,500,044 $2,147,310 $532,783 $157,318 N $2,500,000 $0 $33 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Open Society Policy Center

    1730 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, 7th Floor
    Washington, DC 20006