the worst manipulation money can’t buy

a US election provides a perfect attention backdrop for anyone to throw their message in a bottle into. this year’s theme is, apparently, The Leak. after the DNCleaks made a couple of heads roll at the democratic national convention, it is apparently time for round two:

what caught my eye about this specifically is a tweet linked within above article;

now that’s clickbait if i ever saw any

now this is a pretty strong claim to make, and i thought i’d take a closer look. first up: if soros’ open society foundations (OSF) are manipulating anything, it is predominantly the 2014 elections to the european parliament (EP). now as anyone who cares about the european union’s democratic deficit will tell you, the EP has a pretty major deficiency in that it cannot initiate a legislative process. it has a veto, but this is a delaying veto, not one that can prevent legislation outright. when it uses this veto, the proposed law goes back to the other parts of the EU’s legislative system, the commission and the council, where the representatives of the member states sit. most EU legislation is hammered out in this “trilogue”, which is criticised for being intransparent to the point of opacity. so, maybe not the ideal lever to pull if you want to influence european politics.

in total, soros’ people spent 5.68 million dollars. no matter how you look at it, this is a paltry sum: the OSF has an endowment of 1.6 billion dollars and reported 827 million dollars of expenditures in 2014. furthermore, the european parliament is the only body in the EU system all members of which are directly electable by the EU’s 510 million citizens, which means that soros spends about 1.11 cents per person. now compare that to what an average american election cycle incurs in spending.

what do they spend the money on? i’ve taken the liberty of classifying the activities they fund into four, very broad categories.

the first is “Marginalised”, referring to everything meant to promote the rights of LGBT people, Sinti and Roma, migrants and refugees, women, Muslims, you name it. i’ve furthermore rolled all money given to groups dedicated to fighting populism, xenophobia, racism, sexism etc. etc. into this category because as is occasionally pointed out within the project descriptions, these are two sides of the same coin.

the second category is “Voter turnout”, which is pretty much self-explanatory. most of these projects are focused on trying to get young people out to vote, with a second emphasis on targeting EU nationals abroad; that is to say; groups like Polish people residing in Britain.

the third category i called “Political rights”. this includes things like iSideWith-like projects to inform voters about where their local candidates stand, keeping elected representatives accountable after the elections, two projects dedicated to lobbying for tax and financial reform (against evasion and for transparency in case you wonder) but also outright election observance in countries like hungary and romania.

last, there’s “Civil society”, projects meant to prop up journalists, NGOs and artists.

spending by category. spreadsheet linked below
i also thought it would be interesting to break this down by country. nb: hungary

so, for his money, how did soros’ people do? in a word: poorly. the EP 2014 elections had the lowest turn-out and the strongest showing of far-right parties since its members were first elected in 1979.