(CNSNews.com) - Conservatives are fuming over the $15.5 million that billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros has pledged to defeat President Bush. But they're also anxious to fight back and expose what they consider to be Soros' "immoral" beliefs and atheist leanings.
Several prominent conservatives told CNSNews.com that Soros' "moral bankruptcy" would prove disastrous for the Democratic Party. The liberal groups that have benefited from Soros' gifts - America Coming Together, MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress - are run by Democrats and have a close allegiance to the party's candidates.
Soros, who emigrated from Hungary in 1956 and later became a naturalized U.S. citizen, has expressed outrage at the Bush administration's foreign policy, especially its decision to invade Iraq. Soros and his foundation, the Open Society Institute (OSI), follow a strict philosophy that runs counter to Bush's objectives.
The ideas behind Soros' "open society" have fueled the anger among conservatives. The OSI's website states innocently enough that its objectives include "the strengthening of civil society; economic reform; education at all levels; human rights; legal reform and public administration; media and communications; public health; and arts and culture."
Soros has given away nearly $5 billion in his lifetime, but while a significant portion of that money has been spent on pro-democracy movements overseas, some of it has gone to liberal causes in the United States.
From abortion rights groups to drug reform initiatives, Soros' domestic funding generally ends up in the hands of liberals. The self-proclaimed atheist also created the Project on Death in America to generate debate about the dying process and "alleviate unnecessary suffering."
Among the beneficiaries of Soros' largesse is the Center for Reproductive Rights, the pro-abortion group that recently saw its internal strategy plotting memos publicized by a pro-family group, and at the request of U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), included in the Congressional Record.
Conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, an authority on Christian values, said Soros wants to destroy the values on which the United States was founded. Williams called Soros "morally bankrupt" and he wants the U.S. Justice Department to investigate his contributions.
"He hates God and his biblical principles. He hates everything that's godly," Williams said. "He's jumping up and down at the thought that same-sex marriages could happen in this country. It's a direct assault on the church, the institutions that restrain and restrict our behavior and remind us of the standard of morality and moral absolutes."
Other conservatives were just as harsh. The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, said Soros had to be taken seriously because, "He's the Daddy Warbucks of everything we do not believe in."
"No one knows what demons drive Mr. Soros to consistently fund anti-family agendas," said Robert H. Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute at Concerned Women for America. "But he seems determined to turn the world upside down and replace morality with immorality."
Surviving Nazi-occupied Hungary
For much of his life, Soros shied away from public attention. It wasn't until after his Quantum Fund became a huge success on Wall Street that he began to dabble in philanthropy around the age of 50.
As a child and teenager, Soros was profoundly shaped as a Jew living in Nazi-occupied Hungary. His father, Tivadar, protected George, his mother Erzebet and brother Paul by obtaining false identities for them. At 14, George assumed the identity of a Christian and was separated from his parents.
"I would say that that's when my character was made," Soros said in a 60 Minutes interview in 1998.
A biography of Soros by former New York Times reporter Michael T. Kaufman detailed the experience. When George was 6 year old, his father changed the family name from Schwartz to Soros to protect the family from the threat of Nazi policies targeting Jews.
After surviving the threat of Nazism, Soros' parents later had to endure a Soviet-led communist takeover of Hungary. They eventually fled the country and united with George and his brother in America.
While these experiences shaped Soros as an individual, he grew fond of the open society philosophy while studying at the London School of Economics. There, a scholar named Karl Popper would become Soros' mentor and influence his thinking of open societies.
According to Kaufman's biography, Soros was born a Jew but only began to take an interest in religion when he was about 12 years old. He had a bar mitzvah a year later. Several of Soros' relatives became Christians, but as time wore on Soros' own faith in a higher being faded. In the 60 Minutes interview, Soros admitted he was not religious and didn't believe in God.
Eliciting controversy and conservative ire
His feelings about Israel generally run counter to traditional Jewish thought. In his new book, The Bubble of American Supremacy, Soros takes a swipe at Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who he blames as much as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for the violence in the Middle East.
"Perpetrators are now in charge on both sides," Soros wrote.
At a Jewish Funders' Network appearance in November, Soros' remarks on Israel and anti-Semitism drew an angry response from the Anti-Defamation League. But that controversy died down after critics looked at the full context of his comments, said Michael Vachon, Soros' aide.
Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition, remained critical of his views on Israel. He said Bush's strong alliance with Israel could partly explain Soros' desire to see the president defeated next year.
Vachon disagreed and noted that Soros is proud of his Jewish heritage. He said the attacks from conservatives are unwarranted, adding that Soros has done more good for people in the world than most critics realize.
"The notion that somehow George Soros is an immoral character is so preposterous," Vachon said. "One doesn't even know how to begin to answer such a ludicrous charge. It's an outrageous claim when you look at the record of the man's life and what he's done."
A former consultant to Soros' foundation, David Rieff, said conservatives appear to be holding Soros to a double standard. Rieff compared Soros to Richard Mellon Scaife, a wealthy conservative who has funded projects frequently criticized by liberals.
"He's putting his money where his mouth is. And as far as the conservative disquiet," Rieff said, "apparently they can dish it out but they can't take it. Like good capitalists, they thought it was the right of rich people to fund the activities that they believed in."
Americans need to be fully informed about Soros, said Robert McGinnis, a former vice president of the Family Research Council who researched Soros' philanthropy while working there.
"Soros has put his money where his beliefs are, and that's the American way," McGinnis said. "They're radical in my estimation, but he certainly has made a valiant effort across the globe. U.S. citizens need to be wary of the fact that he is embracing a pro-drug, anti-life agenda."
The Capital Research Center, which tracks philanthropists like Soros, found that the Open Society Institute has a pattern of giving to liberal groups that support drug legalization, euthanasia, immigrant entitlements and feminism.
"There is a consistent thread through everything he does," said John Carlisle, editor of the center's Organization Trends and Foundation Watch. "He's a devout secular ideologue."
Vachon acknowledged that Soros is a secularist. He also said the billionaire could handle the attacks from conservatives. But Vachon said Soros' concerns extend beyond Bush; he believes the concept of an open society in the United States is threatened.
"He's giving money to a group that wants to see the incumbent Republican president defeated in the next election," Vachon said. "A lot of people are going to attack him. He's hardly surprised by it."
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