Established in 1993, the Open Society Institute (OSI) is the most prominent of the numerous foundations belonging to the international billionaire financier George Soros, its founder and Chairman. Claiming to be “a nonpartisan, nonpolitical entity” whose funding agendas are “wholly separate” from “George Soros’s private political activities,” OSI describes itself as “a private operating and grantmaking foundation [that] “aims to shape public policy to promote democratic governance, human rights, and economic, legal, and social reform; … implements a range of initiatives to support the rule of law, education, public health, and independent media; [and] works to build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as combating corruption and rights abuses.”
OSI’s Director of U.S. Advocacy is Morton Halperin (President of John Podesta’s Center for American Progress, and a longtime affiliate of the Institute for Policy Studies and the National Lawyers Guild).
The President of OSI and the Soros Foundation Network is Aryeh Neier, who worked for the American Civil Liberties Union from 1963 to 1978, serving as its Director for the last eight of those years. Then, from 1978 to 1990, he was the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch.
PBS broadcaster and Schumann Center for Media and Democracy President Bill Moyers is a former trustee of the Open Society Institute.
Another noteworthy former OSI trustee is Lani Guinier, who served on the OSI board until the end of 2007. Guinier is best known as President Bill Clinton’s 1993 nominee for the post of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Derided by some critics as “Clinton’s Quota Queen” because she favored proportional representation (based on race and ethnicity) in local political elections, Guinier ultimately failed to impress the Senate and her nomination was withdrawn by Clinton.
OSI supports a wide array of leftist organizations, including: the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy; the Tides Foundation; the Tides Center; the National Organization for Women; Feminist Majority; the American Civil Liberties Union; People for the American Way; Alliance for Justice; NARAL Pro-Choice America; America Coming Together; the Center for American Progress; Campaign for America’s Future; Amnesty International; the Sentencing Project; the Center for Community Change; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund; the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN); Campus Progress; Free Exchange on Campus; Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; Democracy 21; Human Rights Watch; the Prison Moratorium Project; the Immigrant Funders’ Collaborative; the Moving Ideas Network; the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; the No Peace Without Justice International Committee; the National Lawyers Guild; the Center for Constitutional Rights; the Coalition for an International Criminal Court; the Abortion Access Project; People of Color In Crisis; The American Prospect; MoveOn.org; the Gay Straight Alliance Network; the Youth Law Center; Planned Parenthood; the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy; the Institute for Policy Studies; Joint Victory Campaign 2004; the Midwest Academy; Jews for Racial and Economic Justice; Project Syndicate (an international association of newspapers that publish anti-American propaganda); the Rocky Mountain Peace Center; the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission; Earth Rights International; the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; the Nation Institute; the Violence Policy Center; Gun Violence Prevention; Critical Resistance – Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex; the Center for Investigative Reporting; the Million Mom March; Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation; the Death Penalty Information Center, the Death Penalty Mobilization Fund; the Drug Policy Alliance; the Brennan Center for Justice; the Project On Death in America; the Death with Dignity National Center; the Ms. Foundation for Women; the National Security Archive Fund; the Pacifica Foundation; Physicians for Human Rights; the Proteus Fund; the Public Citizen Foundation; the Urban Institute; the American Friends Service Committee; Catholics for a Free Choice; Human Rights First; the Independent Media Institute; and MADRE.
A key funder of the open borders movement, OSI also supports the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; the Immigrant Legal Resource Center; the National Immigration Law Center; the National Immigration Forum; the National Council of La Raza; and the American Immigration Law Foundation.
Internal Revenue Service records indicate that OSI made a September 2002 grant of $20,000 to the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee. Stewart was the criminal-defense attorney who was later convicted for abetting her client, the “blind sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman, in terrorist activities connected with his Islamic Group.
The Capital Research Center has published a list of additional organizations to which OSI has recently donated money, groups that according to CRC “advocate higher taxes and more government spending, oppose social security reform, litigate against property rights, oppose the death penalty, oppose tough criminal incarceration policies, oppose Bush judicial nominees, and promote balkanizing racial agendas.” These donees include the following:
We Interrupt This Message portrays America as a nation rife with racism and economic injustice; seeks to radicalize minority youth; aims to help the “disenfranchised” and the “marginalized” to overcome negative media stereotypes; and encourages acts of rebellion against America’s alleged injustices, as evidenced by its characterization of the 1992 Los Angeles riots as a “civil uprising.”
The Independent Media Institute publishes a number of regularly updated websites that offer news and opinion from a far left perspective; its Executive Director Don Hazen is a former publisher of Mother Jones magazine.
The Community Rights Counsel provides legal assistance to state and local governments seeking to restrict individual property rights in the name of “community interest.”
Equal Justice Works encourages young people to pursue careers as public interest lawyers — focusing on the areas of workers’ rights, birth control and abortion issues, consumers’ rights, disability issues, children’s rights, the death penalty, and prisoners’ rights — by funding student fellowships and helping students pay back their school loans.
The Legal Action Center is a public interest law firm that litigates to force health-care insurers to provide coverage for people with histories of addiction to alcohol and drugs. It also opposes community efforts to block the placement of alcohol- and drug-treatment facilities in or near residential neighborhoods.
Population Services International promotes wider access to birth control and abortion services in more than 60 countries worldwide.
The Western States Center aims to build a “progressive movement for social, economic, racial and environmental justice in … eight Western states.”
The Esperanza Center strives to build a political movement drawing on “women, people of color, lesbians and gay men, the working class and poor” — groups it considers “wounded by domination and inequality” in American political life.
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy believes that wealthy Americans pay less than their fair share of taxes; it publishes op-eds and studies that urge states to raise taxes on higher income-earners.
The Network for a Progressive Texas is a coalition of “Texans who are committed to economic, social, and environmental justice … engaging in collective action, and building power to affect progressive change.”
The Center for Law and Social Policy promotes government welfare entitlements under the heading of “economic security”; the Center’s Board of Directors includes attorney Peter Edelman, husband of Children’s Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman.
The Center for Policy Alternatives is a “progressive public policy and leadership development center serving state legislators, state policy organizations, and state grassroots leaders.”
The Economic Policy Institute opposes social security privatization and free trade agreements such as NAFTA; it was founded in 1986 by journalist Robert Kuttner, Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and economist Lester Thurow.
The State Strategies Fund works to create a coalition of activists to support its agenda of campaign finance reform, progressive tax policy, and government-funded health care.
DEMOS believes that America’s social and economic ills stem largely from “the values of extreme laissez faire ideology that have deeply permeated our society,” and from the fact that “[w]e’ve been told that government is the problem, not the solution.”
A strong supporter of anti-war and environmentalist organizations, OSI is a member of the Peace and Security Funders Group. It is also a member of the International Human Rights Funders Group, a network of more than six-dozen grant-makers dedicated to bankrolling leftist organizations and causes.
OSI endorsed a 2000 document called the Earth Charter, which blames capitalism for many of the world’s environmental, social, and economic problems. According to the Charter, “the dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, the depletion of resources, and a massive extinction of species.” “The benefits of development,” adds the Charter, “are not shared equitably and the gap between rich and poor is widening.”
In the vanguard of the U.S. drug decriminalization movement, OSI in 1994 pledged $4 million to fund the establishment of the Lindesmith Center, which supports the legalization of marijuana. In 2002 OSI gave $3 million to the Tides Foundation, earmarking the money for a group called Fund for Drug Policy Reform, which opposes the War on Drugs.
OSI was a signatory to a November 1, 2001 document characterizing the 9/11 attacks as a legal matter to be addressed by criminal-justice procedures rather than military retribution. Suggesting that the hijackers were motivated chiefly by a desire to point out global injustices perpetrated by the United States, this document explained that similar future calamities could be averted only if America would finally begin to “promote fundamental rights around the world.”
OSI endorsed the Civil Liberties Restoration Act (CLRA) of 2004, which was designed to roll back, in the name of protecting civil liberties, vital national-security policies that had been adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Numerous OSI funding initiatives reflect the Institute’s view that the American criminal-justice system is infested with racism, and that incarceration is an inappropriate punishment for most lawbreakers. For example: (a) OSI has established a “U.S. Justice Fund” to “diminish the role of prisons … and to pave the way for the creation of a larger system of public health and social supports.” (b) In a related measure, the Institute created an “After Prison Initiative” focusing on “supporting the successful reentry of prisoners to their communities.” (c) OSI helps finance the Sentencing Project, which claims that prison sentencing patterns are racially discriminatory, and advocates in favor of granting voting rights to convicted felons. (d) OSI funds the Southern Center for Human Rights, which recruits lawyers to represent death row inmates and aims to reduce America’s alleged over-reliance on incarceration. (e) The Institute supports Critical Resistance, a program that impugns the “Prison Industrial Complex” for fostering the delusion that “caging and controlling people makes us safe.”
A strong advocate of gun control, OSI funds the Network on Small Arms, which has lobbied the United Nations to pass a measure outlawing private gun ownership and effectively overturning the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.
OSI funded the multi-year United Nations Millennium Development Project — commissioned by the UN Secretary-General in 2002 “to develop a concrete action plan for the world to … reverse the grinding poverty, hunger and disease affecting billions of people. In 2005 this Project culminated in a recommendation for a massive wealth-redistribution, foreign-aid program whose provisions, if adopted, would impose more than $150 billion in annual costs on Americans.
Each year, OSI sponsors a number of fellowships, among them, the Soros Justice Fellowship which is awarded to “outstanding individuals” who will implement projects aimed at reforming the American criminal-justice system. Most notably, OSI seeks to end “the over-reliance on incarceration and harsh punishment, and the lack of equal justice—especially for people of color and the poor.” One of the more infamous recipients of this fellowship was the radical communist Linda Evans, a former member of the Weather Underground. In the 1970s, Evans and accomplice Susan Rosenberg took part in the deadly Brinks armored-car robbery in Nyack, New York, where two security guards and two police officers were shot, three of them fatally. Three years later, the women were finally apprehended. At the time, they had 740 pounds of explosives (which they admitted were earmarked for bombings) in their possession. Rosenberg was sentenced to 58 years in prison, Evans to 40 years. (She was later paroned by President Bill Clinton in January 2001.) According to FBI files, Evans, during a 1969 trip to Hanoi, was shown an anti-aircraft gun, cradled it in her arms, and said, “[I wish] an American plane would fly over.” Her OSI award was intended to aid her efforts to “increase civic participation of former prisoners.”
On August 16, 2005, OSI (in collaboration with the Center for American Progress, the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union, AFSCME, and the United Steelworkers Union) launched a new organization called the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN). Led by Democratic activists David Sirota and Steve Doherty, PLAN’s mission is to seed state legislatures with prewritten “model” legislation reflecting leftist visions of justice.
Between 1998 and 2003, OSI received more than $30 million from U.S. government agencies. Various State Department documents indicate that OSI has been paid to run what the Department describes as “democratization programs” in a number of countries, including Uzbekistan, Burma, and regions of Central Asia.
In an effort to present itself in the most positive light to the American people, OSI uses the services of the public relations firm Fenton Communications.
In October 2010, OSI announced that it was donating $1.8 million to National Public Radio, in order to enable NPR to add 100 journalists at its affiliate radio stations across the United States.