Billionaire George Soros ramps up lobbying during Trump's first year

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Billionaire business magnate George Soros ramped up lobbying efforts to a record level during President Donald Trump’s first year in office, new documents show.

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Soros’ non-profit organization, the Open Society Policy Center, spent more than $16 million on lobbying campaigns last year, according to disclosure forms and as first reported by The Washington Free Beacon. The most the group had previously spent on lobbying was $12.4 million in 2014. In 2016, it spent about $5.6 million.

The Open Society Policy Center is an advocacy group that aims to influence “U.S. government policy on domestic and international issues,” according to its website.

In the first quarter of 2017, the group spent $1.7 million, with a focus on issues ranging from civil rights to judicial and executive branch nominations.

In the second quarter, between April 1 and June 30, the group spent $2.86 million on lobbying activities, documents show. That money went toward issues such as the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 and the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017. Spending by the nonprofit registered at $1.25 million in the third quarter.

During the fourth quarter, spending sharply increased to $10.3 million and was allocated toward multiple efforts to withhold funding for U.S. military action against North Korea without prior congressional approval.

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“We make different grants each year depending on what is happening in Congress and there was a lot going [on] in 2017: Protecting immigrants and refugees, preserving fairness in the tax code, advocating for criminal justice reform, pressing for disaster relief for Puerto Rico, and promoting a progressive U.S. foreign policy,” Jonathan Kaplan, a spokesman for the Open Society Policy Center, said.

It is worth noting that part of the increase during late 2017 can be attributed to money the center gave to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which tore through the island in September. A source familiar with the matter told FOX Business that spending would have increased in the fourth quarter regardless of who was president, as the center continues to work to improve the economy, education and health care environments in Puerto Rico.

Also notable throughout the year was Soros’ contributions to improve U.S. relations with Hungary, where he lived as a child.

Soros has drawn criticism from Republicans for large sums donated to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and those of other Democratic politicians.

The Open Society Policy Center is separate from Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

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