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Naomi Schaefer Riley recently laughed at the claim that only the Right uses its philanthropy to influence the nation’s politics. She quoted the New Yorker’s overwrought profile of the Koch family, in which a spokesman for the left-wing philanthropist George Soros insisted that “Soros’s giving is transparent, and that ‘none of his contributions are in the service of his own economic interests.’”

Ah, yes, Mr. Soros’ economic interests. How about the political interests of a man who financially supports countless advocacy efforts (nonprofit and otherwise) and heavily invests his personal fortune in political campaigns, giving tens of millions of dollars in the 2004 presidential cycle alone?

As for the transparency of Soros’ giving, it’s odd for his spokesman to brag about that. You’d think he would recall the controversy that erupted just a couple weeks ago over a donation given in that same 2004 election cycle. It seems Soros, an atheist, looked so kindly on the left-wing evangelical Christian group Sojourners that he provided it with a $200,000 grant. Did it perhaps cross his mind that any erosion of support among evangelicals which Sojourners could bring about would injure the President he had spent so many millions of dollars to defeat?

Marvin Olasky of World magazine broke this story, only to have Sojourners’ head Jim Wallis call him a liar. Just as the controversy was erupting around the Internet, Soros’ Open Society Institute, in something less than a triumph of transparency, removed the web pages that document the truth of Olasky’s story.

Luckily there were other sources of the information, and Wallis begrudgingly admitted that his group had received not one but three Soros grants. In his own triumph of transparency, Wallis claimed he’d forgotten all three -- an impressive feat, given that Soros’ contribution provided over 10 percent of Sojourners’ assets for 2004, and that Wallis also received $25,000 of Soros’ lucre in 2006 and another $100,000 in 2007.

None of this means it’s immoral for Soros to spread his money around in ways that nudge the country in the political directions he favors. In fact, Soros’ politically minded philanthropy did much unarguable good in past decades, when his international network of nonprofits helped to weaken the socialist tyrannies of Eastern Europe.

Soros named his premier giving vehicle the Open Society Institute. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could now agree that in our open society, all donors have a right to give their money to the causes they believe in?

UPDATE: David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy puts the Kochs' giving in perspective: "According to Mayer [in the New Yorker profile], the Kochs have spent 'more than a hundred million dollars' on 'right-wing' foundations since 1980. Let’s be aggressive, and assume arguendo the figure, adjusted for inflation, is $400 million. That’s a whole $13 million or so a year since 1980. By contrast, the Ford Foundation, one of many well-endowed 'mainstream' liberal foundations, spends over $500 million a year.... Soros’ Open Society Institute annually spends over $150 million." And a Bernstein reader points to another transparency triumph: To help her slap the Kochs around, the New Yorker author quotes the following supposedly neutral groups without mentioning that all of them receive Soros funding: National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Center for Public Integrity, Media Matters, and ClimateProgress.org.

UPDATE II: A wit adds more perspective: "Poor Charles and David Koch. Someone had to be made the Professor Moriarty behind these awful Tea Party people."

UPDATE III: Jonah Goldberg comments on this post at the AEI website.

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