Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s ties to billionaire George Soros are not as close as Republicans claim

Politics

Democratic candidate for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks to the press after casting his ballot in the New York City election in the Manhattan borough of New York, November 2, 2021.
Mike Segar | Reuters

As Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg inches closer to a possible indictment against former President Donald Trump, Republicans have launched a barrage of attacks against the Democratic district attorney and his alleged ties to billionaire George Soros.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican and the party’s fourth-ranking leader in the House, tweeted Monday that Bragg “took one million dollars from George Soros.” Sen. J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican whose 2022 campaign received millions of dollars in support from GOP megadonor and investor Peter Thiel, said in a tweet that “Alvin Bragg is bought by George Soros.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is talking to allies about using his panel to scrutinize Bragg’s links to Soros as Trump targets Bragg ahead of a likely indictment, according to a GOP strategist close to Jordan. It fits into a larger GOP strategy to discredit the Manhattan probe: Jordan co-signed a letter calling on Bragg to testify before Congress, and questioned whether the Manhattan DA’s investigation into Trump used federal funds.

As Bragg prepares the expected first-ever indictment of a former president, Trump’s allies have launched a barrage of attacks against the Democratic district attorney. They have found a familiar target in Soros, whose hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to back Democratic political campaigns and scathing criticism of Trump have made him a boogeyman in Republican circles for well over a decade. Democrats and outside experts have frequently described the attacks on Soros, who is Jewish, as antisemitic.

But the reality of Bragg’s links to Soros does not entirely match the picture painted by Republican lawmakers who aim to use ties between the men to discredit the probe, according to records and people familiar with both men.

Representatives for Bragg and Jordan did not return requests for comment.

Soros’ connection to Bragg — and possible influence on his investigation into Trump — are not as clear as Republicans leaders would make them sound. There’s no proof Bragg is “bought by Soros,” as Vance puts it.

A Soros advisor, who declined to be named to speak openly about private matters, said the billionaire “has never met or spoken to Alvin Bragg.”

Most of the criticism of Bragg appears to stem from support, and later political pressure, he received from the racial justice group Color of Change, which tries to influence government and corporate policy around the country. Soros donated $1 million to the Color of Change PAC in 2021. The Soros-funded Open Society Policy Center also piled $7 million into the group’s separate 501(c)(4) arm that year.

Yet, those familiar with the contributions said that the money the billionaire and his organization gave to Color of Change was not earmarked to back Bragg’s campaign, or intended to be used in an effort to pressure the DA.

Soros’ $1 million check to the Color of Change PAC, the largest individual donation it received in the 2022 election cycle, came days after it endorsed Bragg for district attorney and pledged more than $1 million in spending to support his candidacy, according to records.

A Color of Change official, who declined to be named to speak openly about private matters, told CNBC that the group ended up spending around $500,000 to back Bragg.

There is also no indication the Open Society Policy Center’s donation was directed toward an eventual Color of Change campaign to influence Bragg. In 2022, a year after the Color of Change received the $7 million sum from the Soros-funded group, a nonprofit arm of the organization helped to pressure Bragg not to prosecute Tracy McCarter, who was charged with murdering her estranged husband.

As part of the campaign, Color of Change twice printed open letters in The New York Times calling for Bragg to drop the charges, according to a judge who pushed back on the Manhattan DA’s decision not to prosecute. The group also ran digital ads on Facebook, according to the platform’s ad archive. One features people outlining the arguments of McCarter’s supporters for dropping the charges: that she acted in self-defense against domestic violence.

The funding from Soros’ nonprofit was not targeted toward the campaign to support McCarter, the Color of Change official told CNBC. Open Society’s website says the group’s donation was intended “to support [Color of Change]’s social welfare activities” over the course of five years.

Rashad Robinson, the president of Color of Change, did not return requests for an interview before publication of this story. Robinson has tweeted in recent days in an apparent response to Republican attacks against Color of Change and its funding from Soros.

“Make no mistake, over the next couple of days as more news about potential consequences for Trump circulates, we will see a flood of anti-Black and antisemitic attacks from the former President and his supporters and enablers,” Robinson said. “They will attack those of us doing the work like @ColorOfChange n allies & those funding it.”

Color of Change has focused its campaigns largely on policies that affect Black Americans.

While Soros’ involvement with Bragg appears to have come through his Color of Change donations, two of his family members have a more direct link to the Manhattan DA. Months before Bragg won a 2021 Democratic primary on his way to becoming Manhattan DA, George Soros’ son, Jonathan, and his wife, combined to donate $20,000 to Bragg’s campaign, state records show.

Jonathan Soros did not return requests for comment.

Follow our live coverage of the grand jury weighing charges against Donald Trump.

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