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Republican Rep. Paul Gosar told Vice News this week that he thinks "it would be interesting to find out" if billionaire progressive activist George Soros worked with "the left" to facilitate August's Charlottesville violence, returning to an oft-parroted far-right conspiracy theory.

Expand chart
Data: Google Trends; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Why Soros? He's a figure often seen as a bogeyman by conservative pundits, who have latched onto both his Hungarian roots and massive success in the financial sector — such as betting against the British pound in the 1990s — to create shadowy associations with his extensive support of progressive causes and social justice. And his Jewish faith, which Gosar made the point of mentioning during his Vice interview, is frequently used as a dog whistle by the far right.

The trend: Spikes in media attention for Soros tend to crop up in two scenarios — a genuine political splash by Soros or a right-wing conspiracy theory brought about by a controversial and divisive event in the United States.

Soros' time in the spotlight over the past two years:

March 15, 2016

Trump's rise causes Soros to dump more cash into 2016 race: Soros viewed Trump's status as frontrunner in 2016 as particularly threatening to the liberal causes he supports, pushing Soros to dump tens of millions in additional cash to back Hillary Clinton. Soros similarly sunk huge amounts of cash into the 2004 presidential race behind John Kerry to oust President George W. Bush.

August 15, 2016

Docs from Soros group released by Russian hackers: Soros' Open Society Foundations was on the receiving end of a Russian cyberattack that led to the release of thousands of documents detailing his support for social justice projects as well as his opposition to far-right ideologies. The attack can now be viewed as a sort of preview to the larger incursions by Russia to influence the 2016 election.

October 24, 2016

Conspiracy theories that Soros owns voting machines: Far-right blogs kicked off a conspiracy theory that Soros owned Smartmatic, a company that controlled voting machines in 16 states, and planned to rig the 2016 vote for Hillary Clinton. Soros did not own any stake in Smartmatic or any other companies connected with voting machines.

November 14, 2016

Soros meets with liberal donors to resist Trump: Soros organized a summit in Washington the week after the election to rally together key Democrats to formulate a plan of action to oppose the Trump administration.

January 23, 2017

Rumblings that Soros funded women's march: Breitbart picked up an op-ed from pro-Trump journalist Asra Q. Nomani alleging that Soros funded the Women's March on Washington, one of the largest protests ever to descend on the nation's capital. Many of the partner organizations of the march did receive contributions from Soros' Open Society Foundations.

August 12, 2017

Far-right conspiracy theories regarding Charlottesville: Infowars falsely alleged that emails showed that the violence in Charlottesville instigated by white supremacist and anti-Semitic demonstrators was in fact orchestrated by Soros in an attempt to bring about "civil unrest" in order to facilitate martial law and ban all conservative voices from protesting.

September 26, 2017

Far-right conspiracy theories surrounding the NFL anthem protests: Alex Jones and Jack Posobiec alleged on Infowars that Soros funded the NFL anthem protests to incite a race war in the United States. For good measure, their report involved plenty of talk about the protests being designed to allow the rise of a "shadow government" planning a coup against President Trump.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

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