- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A top aide to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has sharply denied there was anything improper in his financial relationship as a tenant to financier George Soros, the billionaire who bankrolled a massive campaign last year to defeat President Bush.

Mark Malloch Brown, Mr. Annan’s chief of staff, insisted to reporters in New York that he paid the “full commercial rent” of $10,000 per month on a house that Mr. Soros owns in the pricey Westchester County suburb of Katonah.

The relationship, first reported in the New York Sun last week, raised eyebrows because the British-born Mr. Brown has been the United Nations’ point man on institutional reform.

A successful political consultant and World Bank official in Washington, Mr. Brown also has been the world body’s lead ambassador to the Bush administration and Congress, seeking to improve relations strained by the war in Iraq.

“I have no financial involvement with George Soros, of any kind,” Mr. Brown said at Monday’s daily press briefing in New York. “I pay a full commercial rent for the one property of his I live in.”

Before launching his unsuccessful drive to unseat Mr. Bush, the Hungarian-born Mr. Soros built a global reputation promoting human rights and market reforms in countries of the former Soviet Union and elsewhere.

He became a lightning rod for Republican criticism after he announced in late 2003 that defeating Mr. Bush had become “the central focus of my life.”

The Center for Responsive Politics reports that Mr. Soros donated more than $23 million in the 2003-04 election cycle to MoveOn.org and other groups dedicated to defeating the Republican president.

Mr. Malloch Brown, a British citizen, said it was “no secret” that he was a friend of the financier and had openly served on several advisory groups for various Soros organizations, including the Open Society Institute.

In addition, the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), the world body’s main development agency, which Mr. Brown headed before he was named Mr. Annan’s chief of staff, worked closely with various groups financed by Mr. Soros around the world.

When Mr. Brown relocated from Washington to New York to join the United Nations, his family moved into the five-bedroom house owned by Mr. Soros and adjacent to the house where Mr. Soros lives.

Mr. Brown said that, because of his personal and professional ties with Mr. Soros, “it was absolutely critical when we set our hearts on a house on his property, that if we were going to rent it, we’d pay the full commercial rent.”

UNDP spokesman William Orme said yesterday that neither UNDP nor Mr. Brown had any dealings commercially or politically with Mr. Soros’ advocacy efforts to defeat Mr. Bush.

The $120,000-a-year rent on the Katonah property is just below Mr. Malloch Brown’s $125,000 annual salary as Mr. Annan’s chief aide.

U.N. officials said Mr. Brown, like many public officials, made a major financial sacrifice in taking the U.N. job and is paying the rent in large part out of the money he made in the private sector.

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