By Jamie Doward, the Guardian
Former White House chief adviser says he wants to rival to George Soros’s influence
Steve Bannon has announced plans to establish a foundation in Europe that he hopes will fuel the spread of rightwing populism across the continent.
Donald Trump’s former chief advisor in the White House told the Daily Beast that he wanted to offer a rightwing alternative to George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, which has given away $32bn to largely liberal causes since it was established in 1984.
“Soros is brilliant,” Bannon told the website. “He’s evil, but he’s brilliant.”
The foundation, which Bannon said would be called The Movement, will offer polling, advice on messaging and data targeting and research to a network of rightwing parties across Europe that are enjoying a significant surge in support.
Bannon has met rightwing politicians across the continent in the past 12 months, including Ukip’s former leader, Nigel Farage, members of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National in France and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.
He told the Daily Beast that he envisioned a “supergroup” within the European parliament that could supply as many as a third of MEPs after next May’s Europe-wide elections. He also said he planned to spend half of his time in Europe once the US midterm elections are over in November.
While Bannon has talked up his hopes of matching Soros’s impact, his initial ambitions to rival the financier’s reach and influence appear more modest.
The Movement’s headquarters, which are expected to be in Brussels, is likely to have fewer than 10 full-time staff ahead of the 2019 elections, after which it will expand if its impact is judged to have been a success.
Bannon gave no indication of how much money he intended to plough into the project, nor where funding would come from.
Having been forced out of the White House, he has struggled to carve out a new role for himself. His campaign to replace dozens of Republican incumbents in the Senate with new blood has largely run into the ground.
“People are starting to realise that the anti-establishment thing is kind of a luxury we can’t afford right now,” Bannon told the New York Times in May.
He appears optimistic, however, about his potential impact on the European stage, buoyed by the knowledge that the leave campaign’s victory in the Brexit referendum was achieved on a £7m budget.
He told the Daily Beast: “When they told me the spending cap was £7m, I go: ‘You mean £70m? What the fuck?!’ £7m doesn’t buy anything. It doesn’t buy you Facebook data, it doesn’t buy you ads, it doesn’t do anything. Dude! You just took the fifth-largest economy in the world out of the EU for £7m!”