UPDATE 8:30 P.M.:A previous version of this story said the George C. Marshall Center was a Germany-based security and defense studies institute jointly operated by the U.S. Department of Defense and German Defense Ministry. The George C. Marshall Center is located in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will introduce liberal megadonor George Soros at an open forum on Tuesday, the latest evidence of the billionaire using his political connections to benefit his investments and foreign policy goals, critics say.
Kerry will introduce Soros at the 1:30 p.m. forum on May 13 at the George C. Marshall Center in Washington, D.C., according to a State Department event notice.
Soros will discuss “strengthening civil society, democracy and the world economy” with Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Douglas Frantz following Kerry’s introduction.
Soros, a New York City hedge fund manager who amassed great wealth through his company Soros Fund Management, has used his foundation network—known as the Open Society Foundations (OSF)—to dispense more than $11 billion to groups abroad as well as numerous left-leaning U.S. groups in the last three decades.
He is perhaps the Democratic Party’s most famous donor, contributing almost $24 million to advocacy groups that supported Kerry’s failed presidential bid in 2004, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He also donated $1 million to the Priorities USA Action Super PAC that helped reelect President Barack Obama in 2012.
Critics say Soros leverages his political connections to increase the returns on his investments.
While Soros has increased his multi-million dollar investments in both U.S. and foreign companies that extract shale oil and gas, the Obama administration has championed natural gas as a less carbon-intensive bridge fuel toward a “clean-energy future.” The administration’s proposal to offer incentives to companies that use trucks powered by natural gas would benefit Westport Innovations, a company that converts diesel engines for natural gas use and is partially owned by Soros’ hedge fund.
Soros’ political advocacy also tends to blend with his investments. He proposed in 2009 that developed countries create a “green fund” to combat climate change in developing countries by directing billions from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) toward forestry, land-use, and agricultural projects. Soros’ fund controls more than a $200 million stake in Adecoagro, a Luxembourg-based company that owns hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in South America and would benefit from the IMF cash infusion.
Soros told the New Yorker in a 2004 interview that “there are occasionally symbiotic moments between political and business interests” that occur during his efforts to influence American policy.
Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and former Pentagon adviser in the George W. Bush administration, said in an email that he hopes “Kerry will take a long shower after the event” because hosting Soros is the “diplomatic equivalent of prostitution.”
Rubin said the optics of the event are “horrible” given Soros’ longstanding ties to the administration and his past record of marrying policy advocacy with business.
“If Kerry wants to sponsor a well-deserving guest at a State Department ‘open forum,’ why not someone like Malala Yousefzai, the young school girl whom the Taliban tried to murder?” he said. “Our diplomats could learn a thing or two about moral clarity from her; they certainly won’t from Soros.”
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told the Washington Free Beacon that criticisms of Soros’ appearance at the event are “wholly ridiculous and have no basis in fact whatsoever.”
“This is a regular secretary’s open forum event intended to inform and educate department employees,” Harf said in an email. “George Soros was invited to discuss his views on support of civil society.”
Harf noted that the forum has hosted “guests from diverse points of view” in the past, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, and Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson.
Soros’ actions abroad have also conflicted with traditional U.S. foreign policy stances, raising questions about his appearance at a State Department-sponsored forum.
The OSF have financially supported groups that support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel and called it an “apartheid state,” according to a report last May by NGO Monitor.
The OSF network finances groups such as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a Gaza-based organization that regularly accuses Israel of being an “apartheid state” and refers to terror attacks on Israeli civilians as “resistance.”
Kerry was widely criticized last month after warning that Israel could become “an apartheid state” if it failed to reach a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
Additionally, Soros has financed opposition groups and media in countries such as Azerbaijan and Armenia, two countries that are still locked in a violent and decades-old territorial dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Soros’ involvement there prompted leaders to express concerns that he could further stoke tensions and contribute to another outbreak of war.
“He pursues his own vision, undisturbed by his effect on other nations or the interests of his own,” wrote Richard Miniter, a contributor to Forbes, in 2011. “It is hard for foreign governments to hold him accountable, and his goals and methods are usually kept secret.”
Soros wrote in his 2006 book, The Age of Fallibility: The Consequences of the War on Terror, that “the main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States.”
Soros has an estimated net worth of $20 billion—much of it made through his controversial investment philosophy of making massive, highly leveraged bets on the direction of global financial markets. His involvement in the East Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s drew sharp rebukes from leaders in the region.
He is a major donor to the liberal Center for American Progress and an architect of the Democracy Alliance, a shadowy organization that disburses millions to left-leaning groups but does not disclose its donors.
Additionally, Soros has staked out controversial positions on social issues, calling in 2010 for the full legalization of marijuana in the United States.
Soros’ office did not respond to a request for comment.