The wire service and aspiring "best journalism organization in the world" ran an odd story this morning, insinuating that billionaire financier George Soros is secretly funding the Occupy Wall Street protests. The evidence, unlike the innuendo, is awfully thin.
There has been much speculation over who is financing the disparate protest, which has spread to cities across America and lasted nearly four weeks. One name that keeps coming up is investor George Soros, who in September debuted in the top 10 list of wealthiest Americans. Conservative critics contend the movement is a Trojan horse for a secret Soros agenda.
Soros and the protesters deny any connection. But Reuters did find indirect financial links between Soros and Adbusters, an anti-capitalist group in Canada which started the protests with an inventive marketing campaign aimed at sparking an Arab Spring type uprising against Wall Street. Moreover, Soros and the protesters share some ideological ground.
Reuters explains that, like Occupy Wall Street, plenty of Republican congressmen, and the tea party, Soros opposed the bank bailout. And this week the billionaire said he could "understand the sentiment" of the protesters — not exactly a ringing endorsement, and an opinion also shared by Bill Clinton, Ben Bernanke, and at least one member of the Buffet family.
The indirect financial link is as follows: Soros funds the organization Open Society, which between 2007 and 2009 gave $3.5 million to a group called the Tides Center, a clearinghouse for liberal donors that distributes grants of more than $100 million each year. The Tides Center gave $185,000 between 2001 and 2010 to Adbusters — the Vancouver-based anti-consumerist organization that helped conceive of Occupy Wall Street — and $26,000 of that came between 2007 and 2009.
So, to sum up, years before the Occupy Wall Street protests were even a gleam in anyone's eye, a trickle of Soros's money went to one of the groups involved. Compared to the Koch brothers and their well-documented financial ties to the tea party, it is very nearly a rounding error.
This story might not be out of place on Fox News, but at Reuters, which has always taken pains to stay above the partisan fray, it smells suspiciously like Drudge bait. (Sure enough, The Drudge Report ran a link to the item, with the headline: "WIRE: Who's behind 'Occupy'?") For a company that "aims to report the facts, not rumours," an attempt to tie Occupy Wall Street to conservatives' favorite billionaire boogeyman feels poorly thought-out, at best.
Who's behind the Wall Steet protests? [Reuters]
Update: Reuters has now published a new version of the story headlined "Soros: not a funder of Wall Street protests"