GOP Swings at Soros Over Baseball Bid

By Forward Staff; With Reporting by E.J. Kessler and the Jta.

Published July 08, 2005, issue of July 08, 2005.
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In the latest GOP attack on George Soros, Republicans are trying to dissuade Major League Baseball from selling the Washington Nationals to an ownership group linked to the billionaire financier — with one lawmaker appearing to paint Soros as a foreigner who is unwelcome in Washington.

The controversy started last week when several Republicans, including Rep. Tom Davis III of Virginia and New York’s Rep. John Sweeney, were quoted as suggesting that baseball could face retribution from the GOP-controlled Congress if a group linked to Soros is allowed to buy the Washington baseball team. In an interview with Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins, Davis was quoted as describing Soros, a naturalized American citizen, as someone who “wants to buy the world,” and suggesting that selling to his group would be akin to handing over the team to a “multinational.”

Soros, who came to the United States from Hungary in 1956 as a refugee before receiving American citizenship, has been a popular target for many Republicans, thanks largely to his efforts to defeat President Bush in the 2004 election. Citing the rhetoric and images used by Republicans to demonize Soros, some commentators say that his critics have crossed the line between legitimate debate and nativism, if not antisemitism.

“Anybody who realizes that there was such a thing as antisemitism before 1967 hears this and immediately gets all the catchwords,” liberal blogger Joshua Micah Marshall told the Forward. “But the powers that be — big media, the TV networks — don’t really care.”

Soros is reportedly a minority investor in a group led by Washington businessman and Democrat donor Jonathan Ledecky that is bidding for the Nationals.

Davis reportedly suggested that Major League Baseball sell the Washington team to a group of investors led by Bush-ally and fund raiser Fred Malek. Several commentators have noted that Malek, as an aide to President Nixon, helped carry out a crackdown on Jewish government employees. At Nixon’s behest, Malek compiled a list of Jews who worked at the U.S Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nixon believed that Jewish staffers were skewing employment statistics to make him look bad. Malek has been quoted as insisting that he argued against the measures and told Nixon that no Jewish cabal existed.

In addition to painting Soros as a foreigner and slamming his efforts to beat Bush, Republicans have complained about Soros’s funding of groups that work to decriminalize marijuana. Davis reportedly called Soros “pro-marijuana.” Last year, in an interview on Fox News, House Speaker Dennis Hastert suggested that Soros made his money through illegal drug cartels. He later acknowledged that he had no evidence to back up such a claim.

Davis also reportedly called Soros a “convicted felon,” an apparent reference to Soros’s conviction in France for insider trading, which he is appealing.

In recent days, Davis has insisted that he was only speaking as a fan, not as a congressman.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Forward that he was upset that more lawmakers have not objected to the comments by Davis and others suggesting that Soros should not be allowed to purchase the Nationals.

“What troubles me is that there are few people willing to say this is unacceptable,” Foxman said. “Where are the voices in Congress saying this is inappropriate? It’s un-American and unacceptable.”

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