Sojourners and Soros: The sequel
Finessing financials and the left
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(Jim Wallis called this morning [Friday, Aug. 27] and asked me to forgive him for reacting to my initial Soros/Sojourners column by calling me a liar. I certainly do forgive him. -Marvin Olasky)
Jim Wallis has been the subject of some recent blogosphere humor. Hugh Hewitt wrote, "Most folks who receive donations from billionaires tend not to forget them, so pray for Jim Wallis's memory." Scholar William Voegeli wondered whether Sojourners "is drowning in money," since Wallis didn't remember that megabucks leftist George Soros gave $325,000 to his organization. With Jim's denial appearing Clintonian, Baylor's Francis Beckwith imagined Wallis saying, I did not have financial relations with that Soros.
This all grew out of my mention halfway through a July 17 WORLD column that Soros gave money to Sojourners. It didn't seem like a big deal. Of course, Soros would find the religious left useful in drawing evangelical votes from conservatives and electing candidates who support abortion, same-sex marriage, socialism, and other unbiblical causes. Nor was it surprising that Jim, trying to keep his organization afloat, would take the cash. Yet Jim last month told an interviewer twice, "We don't receive money from George Soros."
It's almost an axiom of politics that denials of evidence raise more questions than the original accusation-if the evidence still exists in one form or another. Other people besides myself had seen grants to Sojourners listed on pages in online reports from Soros' Open Society Institute. Jay Richards wrote in National Review Online, "I have physical copies of these pages, which is good, because these pages seem to have disappeared from the OSI website (I'm sure that's just a coincidence)."
The pages had disappeared-an OSI spokeswoman eventually said, "We are overhauling our website"-and that was disappointing, because I wanted people to be able to see for themselves proof of the Soros-Sojourners yoking. What to do? I examined on the Foundation Center website IRS Form 990s filed by Sojourners-but nonprofit groups merely have to list revenue from grants, not spell out their origins.
A stalemate? No, wait-OSI online grant pages were gone, but what about OSI's Form 990 for 2004? (Grantmakers typically list their donations, and IRS forms cannot be so readily scrubbed, right?) Let's look-wow, 283 pages, lots of income statements, various reports, no mention of Sojourners. But then . . . Grants to U.S. Public Charities . . . Yes! On page 225: Sojourners, 2401 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009. "To support the Messaging and Mobilization Project: Engaging Christians on the Importance of Civic Involvement." October 2004: $200,000.
Want to see for yourself? Go to The Foundation Center website. Type in Open Society Institute, New York, fiscal year 2004. Go to page 225. You'll see the grant to Sojourners. You can also see the 2006 grant by choosing the 990 for that year and going to page 125. And by the way, look at page 114 of the OSI 990 for 2007: another $100,000 grant to Sojourners "to support the Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform campaign."
As more evidence emerged, Sojourners communications manager Tim King acknowledged that his organization had received funding from Soros. King released a statement from Wallis in which Jim says he "should have declined to comment" until he had checked the facts. Once he checked, he saw grants "from the Open Society Institute that made up the tiniest fraction of Sojourners' funding during that decade-so small that I hadn't remembered them."
That seems unlikely on the face of it, and thus the blogosphere humor. The first of Soros' three grants, for $200,000, came at a crucial time: Sojourners, according to its 2003 audited financial statement, had "incurred a significant amount of net losses" leading to "a negative asset balance" of $57,324. But we're willing to give Jim Wallis the benefit of the doubt concerning his memory. We'll take him up on his statement that "our books are totally open." We'll welcome the opportunity to examine Sojourners' financial records.
None of this says that Sojourners is beholden to secular leftists and pro-abortionists. Grants from Soros, Barbra Streisand, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund-Jay Richards has recently discovered these other donors-are evidence that individuals and organizations supporting abortion and other unbiblical goals find Sojourners useful. As a person who has worked to keep alive financially some small Christian groups, I know the difficult decisions Jim Wallis has to make about whether to accept such funds.
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