Other Group

Soros Network (Open Society Network)

Website:

www.opensocietyfoundations.org

Type:

Funding and Activism Network

The Soros Network (also called the Open Society Network) is a system of private grantmaking foundations and nonprofits that comprise one of the largest funders of center- and far-left activism and advocacy in the world.

At the center of the network is George Soros, a Hungarian-born financier and liberal philanthropist who has donated billions of dollars to his numerous nonprofits since 1979 with the goal of spreading his redistributionist, anti-free-market “open society” philosophy across the U.S. and the rest of the world. [1]

Soros’ “Open Society” Philosophy

Karl Popper

Soros has said that twentieth century Austrian-born British philosopher Karl Popper’s theory of the “open society” shaped his personal political philosophy and thus his Open Society philanthropy empire. Popper was Soros’ professor and personal mentor during his attendance of the London School of Economics as a young man. [2]

Popper theorized about political regimes according to a three-part schema: there are “organic societies” that operate based on tradition, “closed societies” that operate based on dogma and modern authoritarianism, and “open societies” that operate based on critical thinking, constantly seeking to make things more democratic and pluralistic, ensuring that the rule of law is ever equal and expanding to protect marginalized groups. [3]

The term “open society” was first used by French philosopher Henri Bergson in his 1932 work, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion. For Bergson a society was like a mind: primitive societies tend to be tribalistic and “closed,” like a closed mind, while open societies tend to welcome criticism of old ideas for the sake of new ones. However, despite noting diversity of thought as a hallmark of open minds and societies which promote free inquiry, Bergson felt that open societies tended to prefer moral universalism to moral relativism, since it is the concept of universal humanity which provides the basis for the open society. [4]

Popper greatly expanded upon Bergson’s open society theory in his 1945 work The Open Society and Its Enemies. Popper cites historicism—the theory found in the works of philosophers such as Hegel and Marx that there are no ahistorical, universal truths and values, but rather values and ideas evolve over the centuries—as one of the great enemies to the idea of the universal morality underlying open society. While Popper has a relativistic epistemology, his moral epistemology is not relativistic, and promotes active intolerance toward ideas it deems tribalistic, authoritarian, or in any way in favor of “closed” societies: [5]

This book raises issues which may not be apparent from the table of contents.

It sketches some of the difficulties faced by our civilization – a civilization which might be perhaps described as aiming at humaneness and reasonableness, at equality and freedom; a civilization which is still in its infancy, as it were, and which continues to grow in spite of the fact that it has been so often betrayed by so many of the intellectual leaders of mankind. It attempts to show that this civilization has not yet fully recovered from the shock of its birth – the transition from the tribal or ‘closed society’, with its submission to magical forces, to the ‘open society’ which sets free the critical powers of man. It attempts to show that the shock of this transition is one of the factors that have made possible the rise of those reactionary movements which have tried, and still try, to overthrow civilization and to return to tribalism. And it suggests that what we call nowadays totalitarianism belongs to a tradition which is just as old or just as young as our civilization itself.

It tries thereby to contribute to our understanding of totalitarianism, and of the significance of the perennial fight against it.

Soros wrote that on the most abstract level Popper’s philosophy states, “There is only one objective reality, but there are as many different subjective views as there are thinking participants.” [6] This basic proposition about certainty is termed “reflexivity” in Popper’s philosophy, and Soros has written about the idea at length in his essay Fallibility, Reflexivity, and the Human Uncertainty Principle. [7]

Perceiving this one objective reality clearly is impossible for humans, because a “manipulative function” is always at play—the human mind wanting its perception of a thing to accord with a preestablished idea or opinion—along with the fallibility of the senses and mental processes, the “cognitive factor.” This led Popper (and Soros) to be highly skeptical of human systems that purport to teach the truth, especially about humans themselves, since the humans who create those systems have many biases, prejudices, and conflicts of interests about humans. Popper insists that for a theory, scientific or otherwise, to be legitimate, it must be falsifiable. Since many social science theories are inflexible and assert axioms and articles of belief, these can be cast aside as unscientific.

Politics

On a political level, this skepticism toward objective truths becomes a skepticism toward political regimes and philosophies that assert objective ways of looking at the world, humanity, and ethics. According to Popper and Soros, such cultural and political philosophies have a propensity for becoming totalitarian. Soros adds critiques of laissez-faire economics that Popper did not make, but both Soros and Popper seek to defend liberal democracy against authoritarian philosophies of all stripes because they view it as the political equivalent of their pluralistic epistemology.

Unfortunately, the definition of authoritarianism can become very loose, and the definition of what constitutes a proper “open society” can, ironically, become very narrow.

Applying his abstract philosophy to concrete contemporary events, Soros’ main contention is that the international trend of “opening up” society—essentially another way to say “globalization”—hit a roadblock with the 2008 financial crisis. This has sent humanity on a decade-long detour from our route to complete global democracy, leading to the rise of what Soros sees as authoritarianism in the West, culminating in Trump, Brexit, and the ascents of various populist figures in continental European politics. [8]

Philanthropy

In terms of his philanthropic philosophy, Soros has little respect for billionaires who simply donate money to charities: he believes his organizations’ style of philanthropy is superior to the practice of donating money to the global poor because it actively attempts to flip undemocratic regimes into democracies and help them preserve their democratic status once they achieve it. (His son Alexander, who is heavily involved in the Open Society foundations, made a similar argument in an December 2019 interview with Reuters. [9])

Soros believes that America has “shortcomings” in achieving true open society status. In his book, In Defense of Open Society, he outlines his major areas of concern in America: “nonpartisan” redistricting, getting progressive judges in federal courts, and conducting a “properly conducted census.” Soros also states that one of his long-time goals with his domestic American philanthropy has been to clean up corruption that has befallen the journalistic, pharmaceutical, and legal fields due to their monetization. This perceived corruption allows him to justify funding a number of left-of-center nonprofits related to these fields, such as Media Matters for America.

Soros also explains that he wants to dramatically reduce incarceration rates in the U.S. by influencing local law enforcement and decriminalizing drug possession. [10]

Groups in the Soros Network

Soros Family Foundations

The Open Society Foundations (OSF) is George Soros’ main foundation and central hub of the Soros network. OSF was founded in 1993 as a center-left think tank called the Open Society Institute (OSI), which remains its formal name, though its scope has since expanded to include general grantmaking to other left-wing nonprofits. In 2018, OSF reported revenues of $376 million and expenditures of $215 million (including grants of $20.3 million). OSF is the 2nd-largest of Soros’ foundations, with 2018 assets of $3.7 billion. [11]

The Foundation to Promote Open Society (FPOS) is the largest of Soros’ foundations, with 2018 assets of $10.8 billion, revenues of $1.3 billion, and expenditures of $498 million (including grants to other nonprofits totaling $499 million). [12] FPOS was endowed in 2008-2009 with over $1 billion from OSF (then Soros’ primary foundation); it’s since become the largest grantmaking organization in the Soros network and has disbursed billions of dollars to numerous center-left and far-left nonprofits including Media Matters for America, the League of Women Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC), and UnidosUS (formerly the National Council for La Raza).

Open Society Network: Revenues
Annual RevenuesOpen Society FoundationsFoundation to Promote Open Society
2018$209,338,778$878,622,618
2017$372,081,883$441,000,000
2016$255,087,605$573,654,313
2015$369,708,179$421,000,000
2014$173,259,416$585,692,432
2013$155,664,135$390,573,880
2012$325,168,087$512,251,834
2011$202,469,577$328,274,870
2010$120,818,153$264,623,591
2009$133,811,261$1,071,377,089
2008$440,000,134$1,000,000
2007$277,182,954-
2006$575,486,624-
2005$380,304,738-
2004$73,863,651-
2003$203,117,247-
2002$347,213,378-
2001$223,614,143-
2000$305,816,170-
Sum:$5,144,006,113$5,468,070,627
Open Society Network: Expenditures
Annual ExpendituresOpen Society FoundationsFoundation to Promote Open Society
2018$215,140,011$493,524,010
2017$536,167,828$219,313,003
2016$210,244,454$510,993,179
2015$186,759,132$544,915,615
2014$179,965,911$465,086,516
2013$190,444,407$398,433,799
2012$585,166,446$277,229,666
2011$208,625,687$290,682,063
2010$175,809,148$385,213,501
2009$1,111,049,908$238,882,055
2008$210,998,833$10,000
2007$158,044,625-
2006$139,088,719-
2005$113,704,430-
2004$126,024,479-
2003$125,672,460-
2002$168,084,112-
2001$181,024,894-
2000$209,785,840-
Sum:$5,031,801,324$3,824,283,407

The Alexander Soros Foundation is the private foundation of Alexander Soros (b. 1985), one of the sons of George Soros, and primarily makes grants to center-left humanitarian and “social justice” causes.

The Jennifer and Jonathan Allan Soros Foundation is the private foundation of Jonathan Soros, one of the sons of George Soros, and his wife, Jennifer. The foundation was created in 2009 and makes grants to other left-of-center advocacy groups and pass-through nonprofits, including Planned Parenthood, National Popular Vote, and the Tides Foundation.

501(c)(3) Nonprofits and Pass-Throughs

The Open Society Fund is the oldest funding nonprofit in the Soros network and was formed in 1979. In the 1980s, the Open Society Fund expanded its grantmaking focus to Africa and Europe to promote George Soros’ “open society” philosophy, particularly among former Soviet bloc countries, beginning in the 1990s. Grantmaking has since shifted from the Open Society Fund to Soros’ primary funding vehicles: the Open Society Foundations and Foundation to Promote Open Society.

The Open Society Institute Baltimore, also known as the Alliance for Open Society International (formal name), is the sole field office for the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs. OSI-Baltimore makes grants to similar center-left groups as OSF; it also makes donations with a particular emphasis on Baltimore, Maryland.

The Soros Economic Development Fund (SEDF) is a grantmaking foundation that acts as a pass-through for other organizations in the Soros network. In 2018, its sole donor was the Foundation to Promote Open Society, which gave SEDF $60.5 million. [13]

The Soros Fund Charitable Foundation is a grantmaking foundation that acts as a pass-through for other organizations in the Soros network. It was created in 1985 as the “Fund for Reform and Opening of China”; in 1995, it was renamed to “SGM Scholarship Foundation”; and it obtained its current name in 2000. The Soros Fund Charitable Foundation is a major donor to the Foundation to Promote Open Society.

The Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) is a think tank founded by Soros in 2010 to promote a new statist consensus in economics to replace free market economic theory in the wake of 2007-2008 Great Recession. INET is critical of deregulation, blaming past deregulation policies for producing financial crises, and holds annual global convenings of like-minded economists. Soros remains one of the think tank’s primary funders.

501(c)(4) Advocacy/Lobbying Nonprofits

The Open Society Policy Center (OSPC) is the main lobbying group in the Soros network. The Open Society Policy Center makes grants to other left-of-center 501(c)(4) advocacy groups, which are allowed by IRS rules to spend significantly more funds on lobbying than 501(c)(3) nonprofits. Donation recipients of OSPC include the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Color of Change.

The Fund for Policy Reform is another Soros-funded advocacy group which makes grants to organizations focused on drug policy, criminal justice, and election administration policy. The Fund for Policy Reform was founded in 2009 with a $100 million endowment from George Soros. The Fund for Policy Reform Trust is the group’s 501(c)(3) “sister” nonprofit and acts as its financial clearinghouse; in 2018 alone, the Trust granted $750 million to the Fund for Policy Reform, its sole grant recipient and the sole donor to the Fund. [14]

For-Profit Companies

Soros Fund Management, LLC is George Soros’ private investment management firm, created as a hedge fund in 1969 in New York, New York. The company, which now operates as an investment management firm for the Soros family’s wealth, is reportedly one of the most profitable firms in the hedge fund industry. [15]

The Quantum Group of Funds are a set of hedge funds managed by George Soros.

Central European University

Central European University (CEU) is a U.S.-accredited, English-language, graduate-level university established in 1991 by George Soros through the Central European University Budapest Foundation (CEUBF), the nonprofit which legally created CEU, and funding from the Open Society Fund. The university is dedicated to advancing Soros’ “open society” ideology, including skepticism of free market economics and opposition to totalitarian and authoritarian government.

CEU was originally located in Prague, Czechoslovakia, but relocated to Budapest, Hungary in 1993. In 2018, CEU announced its intent to relocated to Vienna, Austria following passage of a Hungarian law aimed to curtailing the influence of Soros-funded institutions. [16]

Defunct Organizations

The Open Society Institute was a think tank in the Soros network founded in 1993. In 2010, it was renamed the Open Society Foundations (OSF) after merging with the Open Society Foundation, a separate Soros-funded foundation distinct from the similarly named OSF. OSF maintains the Open Society Institute’s federal tax ID (EIN) and its legal name continues to be “Open Society Institute.”

The Soros Humanitarian Foundation was a private grantmaking foundation in existence from approximately 1994 to 2012. It was a funding vehicle that granted roughly $124 million to the Foundation to Promote Open Society and $189 million to the Open Society Foundations during its existence.

The Soros Charitable Foundation was a private grantmaking foundation in existence until approximately 2013. It was a funding vehicle that granted nearly $60 million to the Foundation to Promote Open Society and $100 million to the Open Society Foundations during its existence.

Notable People and Influencers

George Soros

George Soros is a billionaire financier and hedge fund manager, author, philanthropist, and one of the top political donors in the United States. Soros was born György Schwartz in Budapest, Hungary, in 1930; he survived the city’s Nazi occupation, and eventually  immigrated to the United Kingdom and later the U.S., where he became an American citizen. An anti-totalitarian and critic of free market economics, Soros grew interested in the writings of the socialist-turned-libertarian philosopher Karl Popper, particularly Popper’s concept of an “open society,” which have influenced his political views for the rest of his life.

Soros earned his vast fortune as a hedge fund manager, beginning in New York in the 1950s. He eventually founded a set of hedge funds known as the Quantum Group of Funds, which grew to trading billions of dollars per day. In 1992, he earned an international reputation for “breaking the bank of England” by shorting the British pound, earning $1 billion on his $10 billion investment.

Soros is a major donor to the Democratic Party and liberal political causes through his set of grantmaking foundations and nonprofits. Each of the groups in his network shares the same goal: spreading Soros’ “open society” ideology across Europe and the U.S., particularly developing countries and post-Soviet states. In practice, this means supporting candidates for public office who share his beliefs and regulations and policies which increase government control over the economy.

Soros Family

Alexander Soros is one of the sons of George Soros (b. 1985). He is also one of the most politically active; besides groups in the Soros network, Alexander Soros is involved in a number of center-left “social justice” activist organizations, including Bend the Arc Jewish Action PAC. He also maintains his own grantmaking foundation, the Alexander Soros Foundation.

Jonathan Soros is one of the sons of George Soros (b. 1970) and a prominent member of the Soros network of nonprofits. He is actively involved in the Democracy Alliance, a convening of major liberal donors and organizations which coordinates grants to groups on the Left. Jonathan Soros and his wife, Jennifer, maintain their own grantmaking entity, the Jennifer and Jonathan Allan Soros Foundation, which makes donations to prominent left-wing nonprofits.

Andrea Soros Colombel is the daughter of George Soros (b. 1965) and a philanthropist. She co-founded the Trace Foundation and Tsadra Foundation, both of which support Tibetan cultural projects.

References

  1. Soros, George. “The Capitalist Threat.” The Atlantic. February 1997. Accessed September 19, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/02/the-capitalist-threat/376773/ ^
  2. Soros, George. In Defense of Open Society. New York: PublicAffairs, 2019. ^
  3. Soros, George. In Defense of Open Society. New York: PublicAffairs, 2019. ^
  4. Bergson, Henri, R. Ashley. Audra, Cloudesley Brereton, and W. Horsfall Carter. The Two Sources of Morality and Religion. Pages 19-25. London: MacMillan and Co., Limited, 1935. https://archive.org/details/twosourcesofmora033499mbp/mode/2up. ^
  5. Popper, Karl R. The Open Society and Its Enemies. Introduction, page 1. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1945. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.59272/mode/2up. ^
  6. Soros, George. In Defense of Open Society. New York: PublicAffairs, 2019. ^
  7. “Fallibility, Reflexivity, and the Human Uncertainty Principle.” George Soros. Accessed March 10, 2020. https://www.georgesoros.com/2014/01/13/fallibility-reflexivity-and-the-human-uncertainty-principle-2/. ^
  8. Soros, George. In Defense of Open Society. New York: PublicAffairs, 2019. ^
  9. “Alexander Soros on His Father and Philanthropy | Reuters Video.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters. Accessed March 10, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/video/watch/alexander-soros-on-his-father-and-philan-id349240300 ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRhm0qLwYr8) ^
  10. Devine, Shane. “Soros Aims to Transform the Justice System by Funding DA Races.” Capital Research Center. Capital Research Center, December 17, 2019. https://capitalresearch.org/article/soros-aims-to-transform-the-justice-system-by-funding-da-races/. ^
  11. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990-PF). Open Society Institute (Foundations). Part I. Lines 12, 25, 26, 31. Available: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/03/OSF-2018-Form-990.pdf ^
  12. Return of Organization Exempt fro. Income Tax (Form 990-PF). Foundation to Promote Open Society. Part I: Lines 12, 25, 26. Part II: Line 16. Available: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/03/FPOS-2018-Form-990.pdf ^
  13. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990-PF). Soros Economic Development Fund. 2018. Schedule B. Available: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/03/Soros-Economic-Development-Fund-2018-Form-990.pdf ^
  14. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). Fund for Policy Reform Trust. 2018. Schedule I. Archived: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/03/Fund-for-Policy-Reform-Trust-2018-Form-990.pdf ^
  15. Tony Griffiths. “The HFMWeek 50 Most Influential People in Hedge Funds.” HFMWeek. Archived: https://web.archive.org/web/20101009180826/http://www.hfmweek.com/features/593652/the-hfmweek-50-most-influential-people-in-hedge-funds.thtml ^
  16. “The Central European University Is Moving to Vienna.” The Economist. December 05, 2018. Accessed December 05, 2018. https://www.economist.com/europe/2018/12/05/the-central-european-university-is-moving-to-vienna ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Alexander Soros
    Notable Person
  2. Jonathan Soros
    Notable Person
  3. George Soros
    Network Funder
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