Pubdate: Thu, 02 Sep 2004
Source: Hill, The (US DC)
Copyright: 2004 The Hill
Author: Jonathan E. Kaplan
Bookmark: (Soros, George)


Public hostilities between House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)
and George Soros, the billionaire donor to the Democratic Party, went
into overdrive yesterday.

In a letter, the Speaker chided the activist philanthropist for his
efforts to legalize recreational drug use and received in return a
second demand for a public apology.

The spat began on Sunday television, when Hastert cast aspersions on
Soros's financial sources. Yesterday, the Speaker neither apologized
nor backed up his suggestion but said he was referring to
drug-legalization pressure groups rather than criminal cartels.

That cut no ice with Soros, who is considering suing Hastert for
slander, said his spokesman, Michael Vachon. Hastert spokesman John
Feehery did not return a call for comment.

In his letter yesterday, Hastert wrote: "I never implied that you were
a criminal and I never would, that's not my style," adding that he was
criticizing the nonprofit organizations Soros has funded, including
the Drug Policy Foundation, the Open Society, the Lendesmith Center
and the Andean Council of Coca Leaf Producers, as well as several
ballot initiatives to decriminalize illegal drug use.

On Fox News on Sunday Hastert did not criticize Soros's choice of
where he donates money. Instead, Hastert said: "You know, I don't know
where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where -- if it comes
from overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from."

Unhappy with Hastert's response, Soros wrote: "I can only assume that
you launched your bogus charge in a feeble attempt to deflect my
criticism of the administration's failed policies. ... You are
attempting to stifle critical debate and intimidate those who believe
this administration is leading the country in a ruinous direction. Now
that I have called you on your false accusation, you are using
additional smear tactics."

Hastert concluded his letter by criticizing the so-called 527
political outfits, which can receive unlimited amounts of money.

"[They] set a dangerous precedent for political discourse because we
don't know where the money comes from. ... Funding for some of the 527s
might come from foreign sources or worse."

Soros concluded, "Your reply willfully misrepresents my positions on
drug policy. ... Your conduct does not reflect creditably on the House
of Representatives. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake