There are few people more maligned in ultra-conservative circles than George Soros, the Hungarian-born investor and philanthropist who has donated millions to Democratic causes and candidates.
U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, a Trump-backed candidate in North Carolina’s 2022 U.S. Senate race, has a loose business connection with the billionaire activist, according to records with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
A Soros investment firm was the largest shareholder of AgriBioTech, a seed company led by Budd’s father that filed for bankruptcy in 2000, securities filings show. Budd was a shareholder but was not an officer.
Soros’ shares were held by Quantum Partners LDC, an investment fund managed by Soros Fund Management LLC, the filings show. Soros was one of two people with voting power over Quantum’s shares, which constituted 7.6% of AgriBioTech’s stock.
AgriBioTech’s bankruptcy led to controversy of its own related to a loan the company received from the Budd family, a topic detailed in a Washington Post article published in August.
While the connection between Soros and Budd appears to be loose, political sources who asked to remain anonymous nudged journalists to research it.
Competing Senate campaigns may use the link to try to generate unease about Budd before to the Republican primary in March, said Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College.
“Using a figure, using a, for lack of a better term, boogeyman, is a potentially effective way to turn people off of another candidate’s run,” Bitzer said.
Jonathan Felts, Budd’s senior advisor, on Tuesday said the campaign was not concerned about the political ramifications of the Soros connection, and declined to provide further comment.
George Soros and Ted Budd
The business connection between Soros and Budd seems distant. Investors like Soros “can invest into whatever he wants to,” Bitzer said. And there is no indication in securities filings that Budd had a role in managing the company’s day-to-day operations.
But then there’s the politics. Budd received the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who has promoted conspiracy theories about Soros. That included the false claim that Soros was funding a migrant caravan making its way to the southern border.
North Carolina politicians aren’t exempt from Soros-related attacks. After Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, received campaign support from Soros, Republicans were quick to attack.
In 2020, the Republican Governors Association made a Facebook post about Soros’ donations to Cooper: “Fundraising with George Soros? Bad. Trying to hide it from North Carolina voters? Even worse.”
Budd secured Trump’s endorsement in June and has since leveraged that into campaign dollars. He is one of the three best-funded candidates battling it out for the Republican nomination, along with former Gov. Pat McCrory and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker.
Whoever is elected to replace Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican retiring from Congress, will will play a major role in which party wins control of the U.S. Senate in 2023.
Whether either the Walker or McCrory campaign will pay for advertisements that use the Soros connection is unclear, but Bitzer said the move would align with modern campaign strategy.
“We see this all the time — it happens in primary elections it happens in general elections,” Bitzer said, referring to attempts to associate candidates with controversial figures even if the connection is weak.
During the 2020 presidential election, for example, conservatives attempted to tie then-candidate Joe Biden to progressives like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders despite the the wide ideological gap between them.
Still, the strategy doesn’t always work, Bitzer said. And if Budd’s supporters are loyal enough, they might see the attack as a call-to-action that will inspire them to push Budd even more vigorously among their peers.
“We’re in just such a negative-oriented partisanship environment nowadays that attacking someone could conceivable backfire, particularly if the charge is loosely defined,” he said. “I don’t see anything that overcomes that Trump loyalty.”
Soros’ reputation on the right
Soros was born in Hungary in 1930, but fled to England in 1946 as communists rose to power, according to a profile in The New York Times Magazine. He went on to make his fortune in investments, famously making $1.5 billion for the Quantum fund in 1992 by betting against the British pound.
Over the course of his career, he donated millions trying to advance democracy in Soviet-bloc countries. Soros, who is Jewish, founded the Open Societies Foundations, a philanthropic organization that backs democratic and human rights campaigns, according to the Foundations’ website.
“His ancestry, his faith and his billions of dollars have I think only intensified him to be the target of far-right activists in Jewish conspiracy, world government conspiracy, whatever conspiracy you can come up with,” Bitzer said.