Soros charitable foundation sometimes leans right

Groups touting conservative ideals among recent beneficiaries

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George Soros may be one of the nation’s top liberal political benefactors, but his company’s charitable program encourages employees to donate to any cause they would like — even if it potentially conflicts with his political ideology.

Soros Fund Management, a hedge fund firm founded by Soros in 1969, will match any donation an employee makes to a nonprofit organization, a common practice among large companies.

And while Soros strongly supports myriad progressive causes, including abortion rights and same-sex marriage, the Soros Fund Charitable Foundation contributed more than $255,000 to 35 different Christian organizations and churches, which typically lean right, in 2012, according to Internal Revenue Service records reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.

For instance, 12 affiliates of the U.S. Catholic Church, which has heavily criticized President Barack Obama’s stances on contraception and abortion, together received nearly $50,000 last year from the foundation. They include the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., and various schools and churches throughout Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

The foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit of which Soros is one of several directors, also donated $2,700 to the Campus Crusade for Christ, which shortened its name to “Cru” two years ago. Among its many religious affirmations, Cru states “that God has called us to help build … spiritual movements everywhere, so everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus Christ.”

Cru spokeswoman Alison Geist said the organization does not take a prospective donor’s ideology into account when raising funds.

“We gratefully accept financial contributions from all who desire to spread the good news of Jesus Christ around the world,” Geist wrote in an email to the Center for Public Integrity.

Other faith-based organizations also received money from the company’s foundation. The foundation contributed more than $825,000 to 15 separate Jewish synagogues, schools and organizations around the country and an additional $63,000 to two Islamic-affiliated groups. Dozens of mainstream charities such as the United Way and Habitat for Humanity, as well as several colleges, likewise received funding.

The Soros Fund Charitable Foundation also made contributions last year to a pair of politically active organizations known for their liberal advocacy. It gave $120,000 to Human Rights Campaign Foundation and $15,000 to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Deni Robey said in an email that it is the organization’s policy “to accept gifts and grants for specific programs and purposes, provided that their intent is consistent with Planned Parenthood’s mission, policies, beliefs and current priorities.”

In 2012, Planned Parenthood’s super PAC and 501(c)(4) nonprofit arms spent a combined $11.9 million backing Democrats running for office, while its political action committee donated $1.7 million to Democratic candidates and groups, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Additionally, Democrats received $1.1 million in contributions last cycle from pro-gay rights Human Rights Campaign's PAC, which only spent around $58,000 on independent expenditures through its 501(c)(4) arm.

The Soros Fund Charitable Foundation’s single largest 2012 contribution went to the Trustees of Deerfield Academy, a boarding school in northwestern Massachusetts, which received $514,500.

Overall, the Soros Fund Charitable Foundation made $8.6 million in contributions to dozens of public health, education and faith-based nonprofit groups, among others, during calendar year 2012 and approved another $1.1 million for future payment, IRS documents show. The foundation finished 2012 with more than $167 million in assets, which have steadily grown over the last 15 years.

Most of the private foundation’s original funds came from the sale of stock holdings initially provided by Soros Fund Management. Last year’s sole source of revenue was nearly $9 million in investment income.

Michael Vachon, a spokesman for Soros Fund Management, said the charitable fund was originally created to promote philanthropy among the company’s employees, and that Soros does not personally determine where the funds are directed.

“It shows the diversity of our employees,” Vachon said.

Soros, 82, made his most notable splash in national politics during the 2004 election, contributing a total of $23.7 million to liberal-leaning 527 committees dedicated to defeating then-President George W. Bush.

Soros was less active throughout the 2012 election, but, along with his family, still ranked among the cycle’s top 20 donors to super PACs, contributing $5.1 million to those aligned with Democrats.

That included $1 million apiece from the elderly patriarch to the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action and American Bridge 21st Century. His family members also donated a combined $1.1 million to a super PAC his son, Jonathan, founded to push for campaign finance reform.

Soros is also a chairman, director, trustee or board member for 16 other nonprofit organizations.

This includes his chairmanship of the Open Society Foundations, which provides funding for the Center for Public Integrity. (For a list of the Center's donors, visit this page on the Center's website.)