Fact Check

Is Christine Blasey Ford's Lawyer the Vice Chair of a 'Soros-Funded Org Opposing Kavanaugh'?

Conspiratorial stories that link an organization on which Debra Katz serves as vice chair only tell part of the story.

Published Oct. 3, 2018

 (Wikimedia Commons)
Image Via Wikimedia Commons
Christine Blasey Ford's attorney, Debra Katz, serves as vice chair for a "Soros-funded organization" that opposes the Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.
What's True

An organization for which Christine Blasey Ford's attorney, Debra Katz, serves as vice chair receives funding from George Soros's Open Society Foundation.

What's False

The organization that Katz vice chairs, the Project on Government Oversight, has dozens of funding sources (including conservative donors) and is a non-partisan government accountability non-profit which has not taken a position supporting or opposing Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation.

National events have a tendency to draw out conspiracy theories about billionaire philanthropist George Soros, and the controversy over the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh proved no different.

Shortly after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a California college professor, came forward with allegations that Kavanaugh had attempted to rape her when the two were in high school, a menagerie of junk news sites and internet conspiracy theorists alike began to scour the web for "links" between her and Soros. And because George Soros is the founder and chair of the Open Society Foundation, which donates to many varied organizations and causes, loose "links" were inevitably found. Many turned out to be bogus, and even one that was based on some accurate information was spun in a misleading way.

On 17 September 2018, Frontpage Mag, a web site operated by the ultra-conservative David Horowitz Freedom Center, reported in a headline that "KAVANAUGH ACCUSER'S LAWYER IS VICE CHAIR OF SOROS FUNDED ORG OPPOSING KAVANAUGH":

Kavanaugh's accuser is being represented by Debra Katz, a Washington D.C., lawyer and the vice chair of the board of the Project On Government Oversight.

POGO co-signed a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Grassley along with a variety of lefty groups demanding Kavanaugh records. This was the obstruction tactic of choice of the left for trying to secure the Court seat before they fastened on to this latest smear.

Where does PGO gets its funding?

From, among other sources, George Soros and his Open Society Foundation tentacles.

(The Frontpage Mag story was the source for a subsequent, widely-quoted opinion piece published by the Washington Times, which more or less rehashed it with an extra helping of Soros paranoia.)

It's true that Debra Katz has served as an attorney for Dr. Ford, and she has indeed also served for years as vice chair of the board for the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that advocates for government transparency and accountability. But claims about the organization's funding and position on Kavanaugh's confirmation have been distorted.

POGO does receive some funding from the Open Society Foundation, but it also receives funding from a multitude of other sources as well. In 2016, POGO listed a donation in excess of $100,000 from the Open Society Foundation, while also reporting a donation of more than $25,000 from the conservative Charles Koch Foundation -- both relatively very small proportions of the more than $2.7 million in revenue the organization took in from all sources that year.

It's also true that the organization signed on to an 8 August 2018 letter addressed to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-California), requesting that all senators on the committee be given equal access to documents pertinent to the nominee and expressing concern that the Republican majority had been given preferential treatment. Other groups that signed the letter included the Campaign for Accountability, Human Rights Watch, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and the National Security Archive.

But POGO spokesman Tim Farnsworth told us POGO is non-partisan and has not taken a position supporting or opposing Kavanaugh's confirmation: "I think it's ridiculous to use one funding source for the organization to draw a conspiracy, when we have over 50 foundations and grant makers supporting us," he said.

Farnsworth said Katz serves on the organization's board not because of any political views she may hold, but because as an attorney she specializes in representing and protecting government whistleblowers.

We sent Frontpage Mag writer Daniel Greenfield questions about whether the headline was still accurate in light of POGO's rebuttal, why he used the term "tentacle" to describe Soros's charitable foundation activities, and why Katz's long-standing membership on POGO's board was considered newsworthy. He replied:

A variety of Soros funded organizations have been highly active in the battle against Kavanaugh. It's therefore newsworthy that POGO has received funding from a politically influential billionaire whose activism has shaped and reshaped national politics. While POGO is officially non-partisan, it has signed on to a letter alongside heavily partisan groups that have taken a strong position against Kavanaugh intended to stymie his progress.

Tentacle refers to the tendency of organizations funded by Soros to be politically and financially intertwined while serving common goals. This phenomenon has been noted in a variety of countries, some of which have targeted legislation against the politically influential billionaire.

This entire discussion has been overtaken by current events. Ford now has a number of clear Democrat partisan figures around her making the debate over partisan leanings on this matter, moot.

Greenfield didn't explain why he didn't consider it equally newsworthy that POGO has also received funding from Charles Koch, a conservative politically influential billionaire whose activism has shaped and reshaped national politics, or use the word "tentacle" to describe Koch's charitable activities.

Open Society Foundation spokeswoman Laura Silver told us the OSF works on behalf of public causes that promote increasing overall social equality and quality of life:

The Open Society Foundations’ work in the US is centered around four goals: promoting a more inclusive and accountable democracy; a fair criminal justice system; full political, economic and civic participation of communities of color and immigrants; and equitable economic growth.

It’s one of the largest programs in the foundations, and covers a lot of issues, as you might imagine. To give you a sampling, based on topics in the news these days: the foundations’ US Programs staff works to end mass incarceration, advance voting rights, close the racial wealth gap; promote the rule of law, and address drug use through community- and health-based systems, rather than the criminal justice system.

The implications of invoking George Soros' name in relation to Dr. Ford is meant to imply that Ford was motivated to come forward solely for politically partisan reasons, but we found no evidence that is the case.

The conspiratorial fixation with Soros often takes hold after mass casualty incidents: he is often the target of fantastical allegations that he orchestrates "false flag" events. It also becomes prominent when a political controversy sweeps the country, as with the Kavanaugh confirmation process. Because the causes that the Soros foundation supports are often progressive in nature, he's regularly invoked as right wing's boogeyman. David Horowitz, for example authored a book entitled The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party, summarized thusly via online retailer Amazon:

Radical infiltrators have been quietly transforming America's societal, cultural, and political institutions for more than a generation. Now, backed by George Soros, they are ready to make their move. These "progressive" extremists have gained control over a once-respectable but now desperate and dangerous political party. From their perches in the Democratic hierarchy, they seek to undermine the war on terror, destabilize the nation, and effect radical "regime change" in America.

As the Anti-Defamation League noted, the more extreme the source of the Soros conspiracy theory, the more likely it will take on an air of hate:

In mainstream conservative discourse, Hungarian Jewish billionaire, Holocaust survivor and philanthropist George Soros is often portrayed as a potent force behind liberal and progressive causes. In far right circles, this belief often veers into outsized conspiracy theories, including claims that he directly funds specific protests or in other ways manipulates events to further his goals. These conspiracy theories sometimes take on an anti-Semitic cast, especially when they associate Soros’ actions with his Jewish identity, incorporate elements of classic anti-Semitic tropes like control of governments, banks and media, or accuse him of orchestrating false flags events ...


Maltby, Kate.   "The Smears Against George Soros Are Dangerous."     CNN.   3 October 2018.

Anti-Defamation League.   "Quantifying Hate: A Year of Anti-Semitism on Twitter."     May 2018.

Bondarenko, Veronika.   "George Soros Is a Favorite Target of the Right — Here's How That Happened."     Business Insider.   20 May 2017.

Hightower, Jim.   "The Kochtopus Is Extending Its Tentacles."     Salon.   24 April 2018.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has been working in the news industry since 2006.