Trump-linked far-right groups in US spent millions on European lobbying | News | DW | 28.03.2019
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Trump-linked far-right groups in US spent millions on European lobbying

A report has found that right-wing non-profits in the US have ramped up spending on lobbying and campaigns in Europe. It comes amid fears that far-right parties could make big gains in European elections this May.

Right-wing Christian groups in the United States spent at least $50 million (€56 million) on supporting far-right activists and campaigns in Europe in recent years, according to an investigative report.

Publicly available financial filings showed 15 conservative non-profit organizations spent some $51 million in Europe from 2008 to 2017, the report by UK-based openDemocracy found.

The filings did not detail what the money was spent on, but openDemocracy said the groups used it to:

  • lobby European Union officials
  • challenge anti-hate speech laws in European courts
  • support anti-LGBT+ and anti-abortion campaigns in eastern and southern Europe.

Read more: Far-right 'stoking fears' in Estonia's parliamentary election

Alyn Smith, a member of the European Parliament for the center-left Scottish National Party (SNP), said the report showed "just how vulnerable our politics are to well funded, organised malign influences."

He added that he had organised a cross-party "call for action" to respond to the findings.

Read more: Italy's Matteo Salvini links with Bannon's far-right Movement ahead of EU vote

Links to Trump and Bannon

Two of the organizations named in the report have ties to the US administration.

The chief counsel of one of the American Center for Law and Justice, Jay Sekulow (pictured), is one of US President Donald Trump's top lawyers.

Meanwhile, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has received millions of dollars in donations from a foundation linked to the billionaire family of Betsy DeVos, Trump's education secretary.

Read more: Steve Bannon won't control Europe's populists: Le Pen

A third organization listed in the report, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, has collaborated with a Rome-based, right-wing think tank affiliated with far-right campaigner Steve Bannon.

Bannon, Trump's former strategist, has tried to mimic his success in promoting right-wing causes in the US to Europe. He recently helped found "The Movement," a Brussels-based institute that aims to advise and support right-wing populist forces across the continent.

Franklin Graham (picture-alliance/AP Photo/B. Brown)

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, chaired by the famous evangelist's son, Franklin Graham (pictured), was one of the organizations named in the report

Europe's angst

Public filings seen by openDemocracy show that many of the groups ramped up their spending in Europe in the past few years.

Read more: Germany: AfD's Jörg Meuthen aims to bring together populists in European Parliament

But the media outlet said it had likely underestimated the true amount spent, because the data did not include figures for 2018 or money spent by churches, which do not file publically available disclosures.

The revelations come at a sensitive time in Europe, as the continent prepares itself for elections to the European Parliament in May.

Far-right electoral successes in many European countries in recent years have alarmed Europe's centrist political establishment. Polls predict these parties are set to make big gains in May.

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