US State Dept spent $9mn on Soros-backed ‘meddling’ in Albanian politics

Documents released by the State Department under a FOIA lawsuit show that almost $ 9 million in US taxpayer dollars was spent on a campaign in Albania managed by a group run by billionaire George Soros.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) funneled funds into a “Justice for All” campaign to reform the courts in Albania in 2016, which was run by Soros’s “East West Management Institute,” according to the conservative watchdog Judicial Watch. The group obtained 32 pages of State Department documents through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

“The Obama administration quietly spent at least $ 9 million in US taxpayers’ dollars in direct collusion with left-wing billionaire George Soros’ backing of a socialist government in Albania,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement.

Soros is a billionaire and “shouldn’t be receiving taxpayer support to advance his radical left agenda to undermine freedom here at home and abroad,” Fitton added.

Following the report’s publication, a USAID official told Fox News that the agency did not provide grants to the Open Society Foundation (OSF) in Albania.

Documents published by Judicial Watch show that this is technically true. Instead, the US Embassy in Tirana and Soros’s Open Society Foundation “each provided funding to a local organization to conduct a public opinion poll on attitudes towards the Judicial Reform effort,” according to a document from February 2017.

The first poll, mentioned in an April 2016 memo, had the OSF ask Albanians about their “knowledge, support, and expectations on justice reform.” The OSF survey showed that 91 percent of respondents support judicial reform to some degree.

“For decades, there has been broad bipartisan agreement in Washington, DC, on the need to promote democracy and human rights abroad,” a spokesperson for OSF told Fox News in a statement, adding, “Of late there has been an unfortunate and misguided effort to politicize this process.”

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US Senators Chris Murphy and John McCain on stage with opposition activists in Kiev, Ukraine, December 2013. © Gleb Garanich

Fitton and Judicial Watch were especially critical of US Ambassador to Albania Donald Lu, a holdover from the Obama administration whom they accuse of having inappropriately close ties to Soros. The embassy in Tirana, they point out, frequently asks representatives of Soros’s Open Society Foundation to “participate in technical reviews” of applications for funding the USAID receives, according to a February 2017 memo.

Judicial Watch accuses Lu of interfering in Albanian politics by backing the country’s socialist government at the expense of the opposition. In May 2017, the group said, Lu declared that the US would recognize the results of the Albanian general election even if the opposition refused to participate.

In March 2017, five Republican senators wrote to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asking about the reports that US taxpayer funds were spent on interfering in internal politics of countries like Albania, as well as neighboring Macedonia.

“This includes reports of diplomats playing political favorites, USAID funds supporting extreme and sometimes violent political activists, and the US government working to marginalize the moderates and conservatives in leadership roles,” Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) said at the time, adding that “this behavior is unacceptable and must be halted immediately.”

Judicial Watch has also made FOIA requests about the activities of Soros groups in Macedonia, Romania and Colombia.

Last month, the political establishment in Washington was up in arms over the Trump administration’s proposal to cut the budget for “democracy promotion” activities abroad, specifically funding for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its partisan adjuncts, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI).

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