Liberal billionaire George Soros continues his push for his preferred left-wing prosecutors across the country, this time quietly racking up a guaranteed victory with $200,000 spent in Norfolk, Virginia.
Soros's cash infusion, which has slipped under the radar, includes $157,000 from his Justice & Public Safety PAC and $41,500 from his Democracy PAC to Ramin Fatehi, a state and federal prosecutor who won a three-way Democratic primary on June 8. He is now the only candidate on the ballot for the November general election for Norfolk's commonwealth's attorney.
Fatehi is the latest in a string of prosecutor candidates Soros has backed to reshape the Virginia criminal justice system. In 2019, Soros provided a significant cash infusion to three winning progressive candidates, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti in Arlington County (nearly $1 million from Soros); Buta Biberaj in Loudon County ($850,000 from Soros); and Steve Descano in Fairfax County ($600,000 from Soros). Soros also pushed $5,000 to Jim Hingeley in Albemarle County. However, unlike the other areas, most of that race's funds did not come from Soros, but rather Sonjia Smith, a Democratic megadonor in Virginia politics.
Soros views prosecutors, who decide what crimes to prosecute and let slide, as a significant component of overhauling the criminal justice system. For years he has funded far-left prosecutor candidates in multiple areas, including Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Kim Foxx in Chicago, and Kim Gardner in St. Louis. His cash frequently boosts the furthest left candidates running in Democratic primaries.
Fatehi favors lax enforcement and views crime as a "symptom of structural racism." According to his campaign website, Fatehi supports decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana possession, abolishing cash bail, abolishing the jury trial penalty, and making the system honor "the principle that Black Lives Matter."
"The old-fashioned view about public safety was not taking into account externalities," Fatehi told The Appeal. "It was focused on the idea of crime as an evil unto itself. Where I part ways is in recognizing that crime is a symptom. It's a symptom of structural racism, of systematic community disinvestment, of redlining, unequal school policy, the lack of jobs, lack of transportation, a lack of opportunities, intergenerational barriers to wealth building, the disinvestment in the treatment of the mentally ill – all of these things are really what produced the symptoms, but then we as prosecutors are charged with essentially trying to deal with it, and then are blamed also when they perhaps increase or decrease."
"I think where those of us who are in the progressive movement diverge, is that we recognize that these externalities exist," Fatehi said. "It's incredibly expensive, imprisoning people, jailing them, supervising them. We are disinvesting from our own community. We're pulling human capital and dollars away from things like mental health treatment, drug treatment, education, housing contracts, and so on."
Fatehi's campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Soros' cash. Whitney Tymas, the treasurer of Soros's Justice & Public Safety PAC, and Michael Vachon, Soros' spokesperson and the treasurer of his Democracy PAC, also did not respond to inquiries on Soros' efforts.
Soros has bankrolled numerous initiatives intending to overhaul the criminal justice system. In 2020, his Open Society Foundations network pledged $70 million to local efforts for such reforms. The cash was part of a more significant $220 million push at racial equality.
Soros also funneled cash into an effort that calls for abolishing the police. In 2019, his Foundation to Promote Open Society, a nonprofit in his sprawling network, earmarked $1.5 million to the Community Resource Hub for Safety and Responsibility. The cash funded the creation of the group, which reviewed "alternatives to policing in the context of police abolitionist frameworks" in a memo to organizers.
Leonard Noisette, head of the Justice Team at Soros's Open Society Foundations, said the network backs communities determining "what alternatives" to policing make sense for them.
"OSF supports the exploration and development of alternatives to current policing practices, and the Hub serves as a clearinghouse of ideas and resources to help advocates determine how best to improve police practices in their communities," Noisette said. "We defer to communities regarding what alternatives make sense for them, including substantially shifting funding for the current approach to policing/law enforcement into services that address societal challenges while doing less harm."