New York billionaire George Soros is leading a campaign to reshape the nation’s criminal justice system -- and targeting with cash four of the 56 district attorney positions in California up for grabs June 5.
In fact, he and other wealthy liberal donors are pouring millions of dollars and liberal groups are offering support to would-be prosecutors who favor lower incarceration rates, crackdowns on police misconduct and changes in a bail system that they argue discriminates against the poor, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"These people who want to create their own social policy are not worthy of the office," former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley told the newspaper. "If they win in San Diego or Sacramento, L.A. is next."
In San Diego County, a deputy public defender is being financially backed after fighting to keep the accused out of jail. In Sacramento and Alameda counties, candidates are challenging the incumbents. In Contra Costa County, a district attorney earned the support of the consortium of wealthy donors and liberal groups.
Five more candidates in Marin, Riverside, San Bernardino, Stanislaus and Yolo counties are also getting donations, albeit much smaller ones, from some liberal donors.
Noah Phillips, who’s running in Sacramento County, attacked his opponent, who happens to be his boss as well, for failing to ever charge a police officer who shot a civilian. He admitted Soros’ team scripted and paid for his ad on television, while his fundraising efforts were improved following the help from Cari Tuna, senior adviser to Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.
Soros reportedly spent over $1.5 million on a political action committee to prop up the San Diego County candidacy of Geneviéve Jones-Wright, who attacked policies “criminalizing poverty” and pledged to form a police misconduct unity.
In total, Soros’ spending reached nearly $3 million this week on races for district attorney positions. Such large cash infusions and support for liberal groups are crucial for contenders as most elections are limited by the $800 individual contribution limit, leaving most campaigns scrambling for cash and relying on unpaid volunteers.
The flows of money remain unclear as federal laws allow nonprofit advocacy groups hide the source of their funding and are required to provide only a summary of their spending.
Jones-Wright's opponent, career prosecutor Summer Stephan, has yet to match the money donors spent against her campaign. Her $1.1 million support came mostly from police unions and other prosecutors, the Times reported.
Stephan slammed Soros’ backing for her opponent, declaring it a public safety threat. But Jones-Wright dismissed the alarmist tone, saying the funding merely gives voice to minorities and poor people who are left behind in prosecutor races.
"I love it!" she said at a recent fundraiser, according to the Times. "If he didn't take an interest in this campaign, it would be an even more uneven playing field."
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, who’s up for re-election, was surprised to see on Soros’ target list to oust her as she’s a registered Democrat and earned endorsements from U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and other organized labor and Democratic groups.
Yet, she’s being attacked from the left, with Soros PAC accusing her of implementing “racist” stop-and-frisk policies. Her opponent, civil rights lawyer Pamela Price, promises to end such policies and blasted O’Malley for being supported by law enforcement groups.
The wealthy liberal donors are also getting behind Diana Becton in Contra Costa County. She was appointed district attorney of the county after her predecessor was forced to resign amid a political corruption scandal.
Her challenger, a veteran prosecutor, slammed the support from the wealthy, saying “billionaires who apparently think Contra Costa's public safety is for sale.”