In the wake of a Manhattan grand jury’s historic decision to indict Donald Trump, the former president and some other prominent Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have invoked liberal billionaire George Soros in their attacks on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Trump claimed in a statement that Bragg was “hand-picked and funded by George Soros.”
Here are the facts.
Soros, a longtime supporter of Democratic campaigns, various liberal causes and prosecutors who favor criminal justice reform, has been a frequent target of antisemitic conspiracy theories painting the Jewish philanthropist as a puppetmaster behind various US and international events. Soros did not make any direct contributions to Bragg’s 2021 election campaign, and a Soros spokesperson, Michael Vachon, told CNN last week that the two men have never once communicated in any way.
Rather, Soros’s connection to Bragg is indirect: he has been a major donor to a liberal political action committee that supported Bragg’s candidacy. A spokesperson for the PAC denounced the Soros-related attacks on Bragg in an interview with CNN last week, calling them “antisemitic,” “anti-Black” and an overstatement of both Soros’s role in the PAC’s decision-making and the PAC’s role in Bragg’s election victory.
Bragg is a graduate of Harvard Law School, a former federal prosecutor and a former chief deputy attorney general for New York state. He won a competitive Democratic primary for Manhattan district attorney in 2021, against an opponent who had millions more to spend, and then trounced a Republican in the general election.
Bragg’s successful campaign was supported by the political action committee affiliated with Color of Change, a nonprofit advocacy group – co-founded in 2005 by Van Jones, who later became a CNN commentator – that promotes criminal justice reform among other racial justice causes. The Color of Change PAC, which has backed progressive district attorney candidates around the country, spent slightly over $500,000 supporting Bragg, Color of Change president and PAC spokesperson Rashad Robinson told CNN last week.
The Color of Change PAC has received significant funding from Soros, who has for years been a vocal advocate of criminal justice reform and of progressive district attorney candidates. Soros was the PAC’s biggest donor in the 2021-2022 period, PolitiFact has reported.
Soros spokesperson Vachon told CNN last week: “Between 2016 and 2022, George Soros personally and Democracy PAC (a PAC to which Mr. Soros has contributed funds) have together contributed roughly $4 million to Color of Change’s PAC, including $1 million in May 2021. None of those funds were earmarked for Alvin Bragg’s campaign. George Soros and Alvin Bragg have never meet in person or spoken by telephone, email, Zoom etc. There has been no contact between the two.”
In addition to these donations to the PAC, CNBC reported that another Soros organization, the Open Society Policy Center, gave the main Color of Change nonprofit $7 million in 2021. Open Society spokesperson Thomas Watson told CNN in an email last week that the funding was a five-year grant and part of a publicly announced $220 million investment in racial justice efforts focused on Black-led organizations; Watson said the grant was “in support of (Color of Change’s) social welfare activities, and not earmarked for any specific work. The grant agreement stipulates, among other restrictions, that no OSPC funding can be used for partisan or political activities.”
As PolitiFact has noted, Soros’s son, Jonathan Soros, and Jonathan’s wife, Jennifer Allan Soros, each made $10,000 donations to Bragg’s campaign during the Democratic primary in April 2021. They had made smaller donations, totaling $450, earlier in the year.
Robinson said that attacks suggesting Bragg is a puppet of Soros, because of George Soros’s donations to the Color of Change PAC, are not only “antisemitic” but also “anti-Black.”
He said the attack is premised on the idea that “Black people are so incapable of having their own ideas about how to fight for justice” that the Black-led PAC could not have come up with its own strategies.
Robinson scoffed at the notion that the PAC was solely responsible for Bragg’s victory; he said that it was “very important” but “one of many factors.”
“Up until last week we couldn’t get people to write about our PAC…now all of a sudden we singlehandedly elected the Manhattan DA. But when he was elected, I didn’t get that credit,” he said.
Robinson also said that, contrary to the notion that Soros funneled money to Color of Change PAC in an attempt to target Trump, Soros has been involved in criminal justice reform efforts for decades, “since before Color of Change existed.” Soros has for years made significant contributions in support of progressive district attorney candidates around the country.
Robinson said it “just feels like such reaching,” at this unprecedented historical moment for a former president, “that now a Black nonprofit is being made part of the story.”
Trump claimed last week that Soros spent more than $1 million on Bragg’s campaign, but that figure is inaccurate.
The Color of Change PAC did announce in May 2021, the month that Soros made a $1 million donation to the PAC, that it was planning to spend over $1 million on an independent expenditure campaign in support of Bragg’s candidacy. But the PAC paused the pro-Bragg spending after hearing an uncorroborated allegation against Bragg that it was not able to thoroughly investigate at the time because of legal restrictions on PACs communicating with candidates, Robinson said. It ended up spending about half of what it had planned, Robinson said, and kept the rest of Soros’s donation for other uses.
“Soros didn’t give us money to give to Alvin Bragg. Soros made a donation to Color of Change,” Robinson said.