Lawmakers are currently looking into interference by a nation-state with another country’s political process.
This is not in reference to the House and Senate Intel Committees’ investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, though. Instead, several Republican senators and congressmen are inquiring about a partnership in Macedonia between the U.S. government and a foundation started by liberal mega-donor George Soros.
Letters have been sent by lawmakers to the Government Accountability Office, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and the U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Jess Baily. In a January letter to Baily, Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee wrote: “I have received credible reports that, over the past few years, the US Mission to Macedonia has actively intervened in the party politics of Macedonia, as well as in the shaping of its media environment and civil society, often favoring groups of one political persuasion over another.”
This past Monday, Baily — a career diplomat — visited Washington and met with Sen. Lee and his staff, a spokeswoman told The Daily Caller. Lee’s office did not elaborate on what occurred during the meeting.
While Lee just referenced “credible reports” in his January letter, he and five other Republican senators, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Georgia Sen. David Perdue, got into more specifics in their March letter to Tillerson. There they referenced the direct grants given by USAID to George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.
While many of the claims of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election rely on alleged hacking operations, the American campaign in Macedonia is out there in the open.
USAID, which is responsible for doling out civilian foreign aid, has officially partnered with the Open Society Foundations. Since 2012, the government agency has given $1.5 million in grants to organizations chosen by the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia (FOSM) and $4.8 million to launch a “Civil Society Project” implemented by FOSM.
Just last August, USAID announced a nearly $9.5 million program that would last until 2021 and would be administered in partnership with FOSM, Metamorphosis, the Association for Democratic Initiatives (ADI), and the National Youth Council of Macedonia. Metamorphosis was launched in 1999 by the Open Society Foundations and has since become independent.
These millions of dollars are being spent in a small southern European nation with a little over 2 million citizens and a GDP per capita 11 times smaller than the U.S.
The report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in January regarding Russian interference in the U.S. election contained about a page of content on the hacking of Democratic Party institutions and individuals, and seven pages on the Kremlin-funded Russia Today news network.
Then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said during a senate hearing that, “RT was very active in promoting a particular point of view, disparaging our system, our alleged hypocrisy about human rights, etc. Whatever crack, fissure they could find in our tapestry, they would exploit it.” In that same hearing Clapper called for the U.S. to have a state media program “on steroids” overseas to fight against this.
It turns out that much of the money given in grants in Macedonia ended up supporting news outlets which promoted a political stance, thus equaling the U.S.’ standard for political interference in another country’s election. Four outlets in Macedonia — A1on, Plusinfo, Potalb and Okno — are directly tied to FOSM, according to the group’s own annual report which stated these outlets receive millions of pageviews. In addition, FOSM and USAID are “partners” with Macedonia’s Media Development Centre.
A 2012 call for grants for the USAID’s “Civil Society Project,” also mentions “use of new media.”
The opposition to Soros’ influence in Macedonia is led by the conservative ruling party VMRO-DPMNE. A VMRO member of parliament told The American Spectator that Soros’ foundation was behind protests that broke out in spring of 2016. “It was a nightmare. The Soros army threw rocks at police guarding VMRO headquarters. Meanwhile, they were handing scissors out on the border to help people cut fences. Chaos,” the member of parliament said.
This reference to a “Soros Army” is quite literal as protesters wore shirts that read “Soros Army.” A Feb. 24 letter sent to the Government Accountability Office and signed by six Republican congressmen asked about U.S. funding of media in Macedonia and whether funds supported violence. The GAO has not responded back to the congressmen’s inquiry.
VMRO won a plurality of the votes in Macedonia’s 2016 parliamentary elections, however, the liberal SDSM party formed a coalition with the ethnic Albanian DUI party to gain a majority of parliament. This deal with the Albanian party would mean making Albanian an official language and possibly changing the nation’s flag, coat of arms, and national anthem.
The Macedonian member of parliament told the American Spectator, “They are destroying my country!” The VMRO party and its supporters have protested against these proposed actions, with the current President Gjorge Ivanov refusing to give the opposition leader a mandate to form a government.