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Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is seen at a news conference Oct. 11, 2022 in New York. (AP) Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is seen at a news conference Oct. 11, 2022 in New York. (AP)

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is seen at a news conference Oct. 11, 2022 in New York. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman March 23, 2023

If Your Time is short

  • George Soros, a liberal billionaire, donated $1 million to Color of Change PAC in May 2021. Both Soros and the PAC have a record of backing candidates who support criminal justice reform.

  • Also in May 2021, Color of Change endorsed Alvin L. Bragg for Manhattan District Attorney. The group said it would support Bragg through direct mail and field operations.

  • Bragg won the Democratic primary in June 2021 by 3 percentage points even though the runner up had a much larger war chest. 

Facing a potential indictment over hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, part of Donald Trump’s strategy is to portray the prosecutor, Manhattan District attorney Alvin Bragg, as being driven by partisan intent.

News reports Bragg’s office could soon charge Trump with falsifying business records related to the $130,000 hush payment to Stormy Daniels. Trump has denied wrongdoing, and he’s gone on the offensive on social media.

In a March 21 Truth Social post, Trump described Bragg as "George Soros backed," referring to the billionaire who has funded many liberal causes. Soros has been a target of conservatives for years.

A day earlier, Trump wrote a post that said Bragg had received "IN EXCESS OF ONE MILLION DOLLARS from Radical Left Enemy of Trump, George Soros."

Soros did give a progressive racial justice group called Color of Change $1 million in May 2021, and in the same month, Color of Change endorsed Bragg and pledged to spend over $1 million supporting his campaign.

However, Soros’ $1 million wasn’t earmarked for Bragg; Color of Change was supporting other progressive district attorney candidates that year in different cities, and had done so in previous election cycles as well.

It’s impossible to know whether Soros or Color of Change swayed Bragg’s decisions on investigating Trump, though the group’s longstanding focus has been on criminal justice policy and racial equity rather than on Trump’s legal situation. 

We emailed a spokesperson for Trump asking for his evidence and did not get a response. We also did not get a response from Bragg’s office.

George Soros and Color of Change

Soros, who has funded some pro-democracy or progressive causes, which has made him a lightning rod for conservative criticism. He has been the target of multiple falsehoods including that he endorsed Ron DeSantis for president, funded protests in Minneapolis and funded voting machines in the U.S

Soros' Open Society Foundations has previously donated to the Poynter-owned International Fact-Checking Network. PolitiFact is a Poynter subsidiary.

Soros is Jewish. Although criticizing his politics is not antisemitic, according to the Anti-Defamation League "when Soros is used as a symbol for Jewish control, wealth, and power, the criticism may be an updated version of traditional antisemitic tropes," the ADL wrote.

Bragg announced his bid for Manhattan district attorney in 2019, vowing to overhaul the criminal justice system. Bragg argued that the system has a separate standard of justice for the rich and powerful than for everyone else. 

Bragg’s agenda aligned with that of Soros. The billionaire has long supported prosecutors who seek to reform the criminal justice system. In a July 2022 op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Soros called for spending more money on proven crime-prevention strategies and prioritizing spending within the criminal justice system on violent offenders. 

In turn, Soros’ position on criminal justice policy aligned with that of Color of Change, a group that backs candidates with those policy priorities, with a focus on racial justice. Since 2018, the group has endorsed multiple candidates for Congress, district attorney, state supreme court justice and governor, as well as Joe Biden for president. 

In 2021, the group endorsed district attorney candidates in Philadelphia and Portsmouth, Virginia, along with Bragg.

According to records filed with the Federal Election Commission, Soros contributed $1 million to Color of Change in May 2021.

Michael Vachon, a spokesperson for Soros, said the $1 million was not earmarked for Bragg.

He added that Soros and Bragg have never met in person or spoken by telephone, email or Zoom.  

That same month, Color of Change endorsed Bragg and pledged to spend over $1 million to support Bragg. The PAC said it would send direct mail and build a field campaign to support Bragg.

Legally, if the contribution to the PAC is not earmarked and if the contributor doesn’t control whose candidacies the PAC supports, then the contributor and the candidate have no connection, said Jerry H. Goldfeder, special counsel at Stroock and longtime New York election law expert.

This wasn’t the first time that Soros gave money to the PAC. Vachon said that between 2016 and 2022, Soros personally and the Soros-funded Democracy PAC contributed roughly $4 million to Color of Change’s PAC. But neither Soros nor Democracy PAC contributed to Bragg’s campaign directly. 

However, Bragg’s campaign finance reports show donations from relatives of Soros: Jonathan Soros, George’s son, as well as Jonathan’s wife, Jennifer Allan Soros. Combined, the two donated about $20,000 in April 2021. 

Overall, Color of Change received about $3.9 million between 2021-22, with Soros being the largest donor, FEC records show. The PAC’s disbursements showed in 2021 it spent much of their money on direct mail, digital ads and staff salaries. 

Color of Change sent PolitiFact a statement that the group has "many funders who invest in our broad strategy to root out injustice in our criminal legal system. Independent of these funders, Color of Change PAC runs a review and interview process to endorse reform minded district attorneys each election cycle."

The group also sent PolitiFact a statement by its president, Rashad Robinson, saying it supported "reform-minded prosecutors, particularly those that come under attack by the right wing." On Twitter, Robinson and Color of Change have pushed back on the criticism.

Bragg’s winning campaign

Bragg won the Democratic primary in June 2021 by more than three points, beating Tali Farhadian Weinstein, who raised about $13 million, far more than Bragg’s $2 million through the primary. Much of Weinstein’s support came from a loan as well from the hedge fund industry, including leaders at her husband’s fund.

In a primary, "money matters, but it really is about the ability to mobilize a relatively small percentage of the most active partisans," said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit that promotes policies to strengthen democracy. In the race for Manhattan DA, candidates are "looking at activating some of the most liberal activists in the country, a lot of that is driven by policy positions — not necessarily who has the most advertising."

The New York Times’ editorial board endorsement of Bragg cited his experience as a former city rights lawyer and prosecutor, and it noted that he would become Manhattan’s first Black district attorney.

Given its Democratic leanings, New York City elections are often effectively decided in the primary. In the general election Bragg sailed to victory with 83% of the vote.

PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this article.

RELATED: Fact-checking Trump on the Stormy Daniels case: The statute of limitations and the FEC's role

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Our Sources

Donald Trump, Truth Social post, March 21, 2023

Donald Trump, Truth Social post, March 20, 2023

New Amsterdam News, Alvin Bragg announces run for Manhattan D.A. June 21, 2019

George Soros op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Why I Support Reform Prosecutors, July 31, 2022

Color of Change, Color of Change PAC Endorses Alvin Bragg for Manhattan DA, May 8, 2021

Color of Change, Endorsements, 2018-2022

Federal Election Commission, George Soros donation to Color of Change, May 14, 2021

Federal Election Commission, Color of Change, 2021-2022

New York State Board of Elections, Contributions search for Soros, 2021

New York State Board of Elections, Candidate/Committee Disclosures Search ColorOfChange PAC - 175553 Primary 06/22/2021 11-Day Pre-Primary Itemized Original State/Local, June 11, 2021

Ballotpedia, Alvin Bragg, 2021

The City, Manhattan DA Candidate Tali Weinstein Skipped Years of Voting in Local Elections, Records Show, June 14, 2021

The New York Times, Wall Street is donating to this D.A. candidate. Is that a problem? April 13, 2021

The New York Times, 2 Leading Manhattan D.A. candidates face the Trump question, June 2, 2021

The New York Times editorial board, Alvin Bragg for Manhattan D.A., May 27, 2021

The Washington Post, What it means to be ‘Soros-backed’ March 20, 2023

Fox News, Beyond George: Other Soros family members helped push Manhattan DA Bragg into power, March 21, 2023

CNBC, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s ties to billionaire George Soros are not as close as Republicans claim, March 22, 2023

The Associated Press, Republicans invoke Soros to steer narrative on Trump probe, March 22, 2023

City of New York Board of Elections, Statement and Return Report for Certification Primary Election 2021 - 06/22/2021 New York County - Democratic Party, June 22, 2021

Rashad Robinson, Color of Change president, Tweets or retweets, March 19 and 20, 2023

Color of Change PAC, Statement to PolitiFact, March 22, 2023

Rashad Robinson, Color of Change president, Statement to PolitiFact, March 21, 2023

Email interview, Michael Vachon, spokesperson for George Soros, March 20, 2023

Telephone interview, Blair Horner, executive director of New York Public Interest Research Group, March 22, 2023

Email interview, Jerry Goldfeder, Special Counsel at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, and serves as Director of the Fordham Law School Voting Rights and Democracy Project, March 22, 2023

Telephone interview, Vito R. Pitta, co-managing partner at Pitta LLP, March 22, 2023

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