A new Soros-linked hotline has been launched to better enable the reporting of illicit lobbying within the EU, The Guardian reports. The initiative, titled ‘LobbyLeaks,’ has already received cross-partisan backing from MEPs in the S&D group, Greens, the Left, and Renew Europe as it was launched this week.
The project is a joint initiative of two anti-corruption NGOs—the Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl—that operates through an encrypted website that allows for anonymous tip-offs regarding ‘shady lobbying’ occurring in the European Parliament.
The Corporate Europe Observatory is a Dutch-registered charity operating out of Brussels producing reports and investigations into corporate lobbying within the EU. According to its most recent financial reports, it has received just under €800,000 of funding since 2014 from the George Soros-run Open Society Foundation. The Observatory was founded in 1997 and has an annual budget of €900,000 through a variety of philanthropic institutions. The Open Society Foundation, which gave the group €174,000 in 2020, is its most significant donor.
Other backers of the Observatory include the Sigrid Rausing Trust, Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, and the left-leaning Isvara Foundation. The Sigrid Rausing Trust is managed by Swedish industrial heiress Sigrid Rausing and has earned a reputation for its funding of human rights- and LGBT-related initiatives across the world.
The Observatory has been instrumental in opposing the controversial TTIP free-trade deal between the EU and the U.S., with its research being regularly syndicated by media sources, The New York Times and Reuters. Earlier this week, Hungarian government spokesman Zoltán Kovács criticised the role of the similarly Soros-funded Transparency International Group in producing biassed reports on Hungary.
The other partner for the hotline is German-based transparency organisation LobbyControl, which receives money from civil society groups Olin gGmbh and The Schöpflin Foundation. When asked to provide a reason for the hotline, Dutch Social Democrat MEP Paul Tang cited understaffing of the EU’s transparency register.
A main focus of the hotline is to examine the lobbying efforts of large tech companies that use front organisations and astroturfing (corporate interests disguised as grassroots organisations), including the influencing of officials over social media. The Observatory has previously produced reports into big tech lobbying of EU institutions finding that corporate actors spend €97 million lobbying officials through 612 entities.
In recent months, there has been an increased spotlight on the role lobbyists and influence operations have on MEPs following the Qatargate scandal and revelations regarding EU officials.
Neither the Corporate Europe Observatory nor LobbyLeaks responded to questions raised by The European Conservative regarding their funding.