Grantee: The Revenue Watch Institute
Ranking: 12th highest grantee, 2005 — 2009
Type: Resource Development Monitor
Issues: Public Transparency, Poverty Relief, Creating Open Society
About: The Revenue Watch Institute began in 2001, relatively early in Soros’ activist career, as a project named Publish What You Pay. Extractive industries (oil, coal, minerals, diamonds) and the governments or private investors with whom they did business were prevailed upon to demonstrate that they were not engaging in exploitative business practices in the developing countries from which they withdrew natural resources.
With the backing of Prime Minister Tony Blair, Soros’ Open Society Foundations teamed up with the (British) Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, Oxfam, and Save the Children to apply ethical pressures to the natural resource extraction industry. Today, Revenue Watch Institute operates independently from the OSI. However, as recently as 2008, the non-profit received $3 million from Soros. According to their website:
Revenue Watch began in 2002 as a program of the Open Society Institute and focused on Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Iraq, especially on how authorities collected and used the money earned from oil. . . We help societies examine every stage of the development of oil, gas and minerals, from the decision to begin exploration, to organizing production, to revenue management, to policies for spending and for economic development. A mainstay of RWI’s work is the development of civil society capacity . . . RWI is spearheading the global campaign to develop global standards for transparency and accountability in the minerals sector. RWI is also a leader in the development and implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative1
Revenue Watch Partner Organizations include Carnegie Moscow Center , CorpWatch at the Tides Center, Earth Institute at Columbia University, London School of Economics, Friends of the Earth, Open Society Institute, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Open Society Policy Center (Washington, D.C.), OSI Local Government Initiative, OSI-Assistance Foundation Azerbaijan, Open Society Georgia Foundation, Open Society Forum Mongolia, Oxfam, RAND Corporation, Soros Foundation Kazakhstan, Soros Foundation Kyrgyzstan, World Bank.
Mission statement: The Revenue Watch Institute is a non-profit policy institute and grantmaking organization that promotes the effective, transparent and accountable management of oil, gas and mineral resources for the public good. Through capacity building, technical assistance, research and advocacy, we help countries realize the development benefits of their natural resource wealth.
Soros funding: According to RWI, between 2006 — 2008, the Open Society Institute donated $9,200,000 to Revenue Watch. ***However, according to the OSI’s 2005 — 2009 990s, the total amount donated to RWI was $6,193,980.
Addendum: The irony did not go entirely unnoticed, that George Soros, the notoriously secretive businessman, or Soros the speculator seeking market information, chose to endow Revenue Watch, an organization seeking voluntary market transparency from others. But it was not noticed excessively.
Revenue Watch has evolved into a large multinational NGO with enough clout to demand natural resource extraction transparency from the U.S. Congress. However, to date, they do not seem to have gotten around to asking for the same from their funder, George Soros. Soros keeps his business dealings under wraps and his money in offshore banks with reputations for money laundering, including the laundering of narco-profits, a different type of extractive industry.2
Curiously, despite the strong and overlapping affiliations of RWI officers with virtually all of Soros’ philanthropic organizations; despite the history of the organization, and the $3 million received from Soros as recently as 2009, RWI has apparently not managed to convince Soros to abide by the legislative reforms he has paid them to impose on others. Revenue Watch recently celebrated the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act:
In July 2010, the U.S. Congress passed Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act, a measure requiring companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to publicly report how much they pay governments for access to oil, gas and minerals. Revenue Watch and a wide range of development, anti-corruption and anti-poverty organizations have lauded the requirement. It is a powerful tool that allows investors to properly assess risk and citizens to see the value placed on their natural resources.3
At that time, Soros closed his investment fund to clients outside his own family in order to sidestep Dodd-Frank’s disclosure rules.
Pouring millions into a foundation dedicated to corporate transparency, then skirting the very laws the foundation manages to pass, is behavior that cannot be dismissed as merely a double-standard. It may not be surprising that Soros has behaved as he did, but what about Revenue Watch?
If Revenue Watch fails to address Soros’ skirting of transparency rules he is paying them to impose on others, how can the organization claim to have the moral imperative to continue their work?
An implication must remain that they are forcing higher operating costs on other businesses and otherwise enhancing Soros’ relative standing in the marketplaces Revenue Watch chooses to target for regulation, particularly in Brazil, where Soros’ involvement4 with the oil firm Petrobrs pointedly drew no notice from Revenue Watch as they lobbied for a Parlimentary investigation of the oil company.5