George Soros Paid Millions to Help Protestors in Ferguson – Truth! & Misleading!
Summary of eRumor:
Billionaire George Soros paid millions of dollars to support groups protested a grand jury’s decision not to prosecute former police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
This claim is mostly true, but some variations of it are misleading.
George Soros is the founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundation (OSF), a nonprofit with a mission to “work to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to participation by all people.” OSF has dedicated more than $11 billion to the cause globally since it was founded.
Reports that OSF donated millions to community groups that led protest efforts in Ferguson started with a report by the Washington Times. The Times reports:
Mr. Soros spurred the Ferguson protest movement through years of funding and mobilizing groups across the U.S., according to interviews with key players and financial records reviewed by The Washington Times.
In all, Mr. Soros gave at least $33 million in one year to support already-established groups that emboldened the grassroots, on-the-ground activists in Ferguson, according to the most recent tax filings of his nonprofit Open Society Foundations.
The financial tether from Mr. Soros to the activist groups gave rise to a combustible protest movement that transformed a one-day criminal event in Missouri into a 24-hour-a-day national cause celebre.
The Times lists a number of organizations that received funding from OSF and later participated in the Ferguson protests at some level: the Gamaliel Foundation, Millennial Activists United, the Advancement Project, PICO, the Organization for Black Struggle, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment and the Drug Policy Alliance. The article doesn’t say which tax year that OSF invested $33 million in those groups. But in 2013, OSF invested more than $111 million in its U.S. programs, which funnel support into various groups and organizations:
Campaign for Black Male Achievement $ 5,947,000
Campaign for a New Drug Policy 8,522,000
Criminal Justice Fund 16,749,000
Democracy Fund 11,843,000
Equality Fund 10,624,000
National Security and Human Rights Campaign 4,504,000
Open Places Initiatives 1,634,000
Open Society Institute-Baltimore 7,472,000
Special Initiatives and Partnerships 12,325,000
Strategic Opportunities Fund 152,000
U.S. Programs General Administration 7,955,000
U.S. Programs General Funds 18,535,000
Young Men’s Initiative 5,323,000
TOTAL US PROGRAMS $ 111,585,000
However, some variations of the eRumor claim that OSF spent $33 million on Ferguson protests alone, which isn’t true. Community groups support a number of initiatives, so it’s not possible for them to dedicate their entire budget to a single cause.
But In addition to its annual investments in those community groups, OSF also donated millions directly to protestors in Ferguson. According to a December 17, 2014, OSF blog post:
This month we invested $2.5 million to support frontline community groups in Ferguson, as well as develop a national database on the police use of force—both to better identify problematic practices and examples of effective, responsive, and accountable policing.
Then, two days later, OSF announced that it would make $2.9 million in additional investments. OSF said the funds would support the social movements in Ferguson and Staten Island, where protests erupted after a police officer that killed Eric Garner was not prosecuted. According to a December 19, 2014, OSF blog post:
The Open Society Foundations are committed to advancing racial justice—through our ongoing work to end mass incarceration, our programmatic focus on black men and boys, our attempts to close the racial wealth gap, and our efforts to mitigate harsh school discipline policies that disproportionately affect children of color.
To supplement those efforts, we are this week making additional investments totaling $2.9 million in response to the recent events in Ferguson and Staten Island. One portion of the investment is intended to help community groups in Missouri advance initiatives to promote police accountability. A second component will further the development of a nationwide database involving police stops and use of force, thereby addressing one of the systemic flaws that limits the ability of police departments and communities to address bias-related issues.
To advance the work on the ground in Ferguson and the greater St. Louis County, Open Society is making grants to help the Organization for Black Struggle and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment. They will partner with the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and Communities United for Police Reform(CUPR) to obtain greater civilian oversight of local police departments in St. Louis County, enhance accountability, address excessive municipal court fines, improve police recruiting and training, and develop neighborhood assemblies to encourage greater civic participation. CPD and CUPR will also examine the ways in which national organizations can support local groups who are leading community-based mobilization efforts to reform police practices.
Even so, claims that the groups donated directly to or paid protestors in Ferguson are shaky at best. The OSF release said the funds were earmarked to support “initiatives to promote police accountability” and to develop a “nationwide database involving police stops and use of force.” So, while groups participating in protests received funding from a Soros-backed group, those funds were intended to support their causes, not the actual protests. That’s why we’re calling this one “truth and misleading.”