Conservatives have long accused billionaire George Soros of funding activist watchdog group Media Matters. Soros has been suspected of being behind every liberal group after giving more than $23 million dollars to progressive groups in 2004 and saying that he would give up his entire fortune President Bush were guaranteed to lose the election. Both Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have accused Soros of funding Media Matters, which has been particularly critical of Fox News’ distortions of the truth. Media Matters officials have always denied taking money from Soros. But after years of double-dog daring him Fox’s suspicions are becoming true: Soros has announced that he is giving Media Matters $1 million.
Soros said in a statement that
Despite repeated assertions to the contrary by various Fox News commentators, I have not to date been a funder of Media Matters. However, in view of recent evidence suggesting that the incendiary rhetoric of Fox News hosts may incite violence, I have now decided to support the organization. Media Matters is one of the few groups that attempts to hold Fox News accountable for the false and misleading information they so often broadcast. I am supporting Media Matters in an effort to more widely publicize the challenge Fox News poses to civil and informed discourse in our democracy.
Republicans have been the main beneficiary of donations from the very rich in this election cycle. Soros seems to have stood on the sidelines this year until now. Groups like Media Matters don’t have to disclose their donors—and Media Matters typically doesn’t disclose them—but Soros has not been shy about contributions he has made in the past. In any case, as I wrote recently, large contributions to conservative groups have far outweighed large contributions to liberal groups this election cycle. Four conservative groups have spent $33 million on political advertising alone. And, as Greg Sargent points out, when you add in the money being spent by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Republicans may be the beneficiaries of more than $100 million of outside money.
Most of that money is coming from a relative handful of corporations and very wealthy donors. But because outside groups are not required to disclose their donors, we don’t actually know exactly where it’s coming from. It’s certainly not the popular groundswell of support for Republicans that it might seem. Dan Eggen recently reported that one group, Concerned Taxpayers of America, is really just consists of two rich taxpayers.
While there are reasons to allow people to express their opinions anonymously—advocates of the American Revolution largely made their case through anonymous pamphlets—there is something troubling about conducting entire political campaigns anonymously. Defenders of anonymous donations make it sound as if rich conservative donors would have to live in fear of roving gangs of progressives if their political positions ever became known. But the main reason many want to fund political advertising secretly is that it allows them to cover up the extent to which lowering taxes on the wealthy or reducing corporate regulations benefits them personally. And it also allows them to avoid taking responsibility for the often misleading or downright dishonest claims their ads make.
George Soros, in any case, doesn’t seem to be afraid to take responsibility for the positions he takes. In its statement, Media Matters wrote that it was “especially pleased that in this moment of hidden right-wing billionaire money corrupting our democracy, Mr. Soros, upon deciding to support our efforts, quickly and transparently has made that support public.” Whatever you think about George Soros and Media Matters, at least you have some idea where they’re coming from.