A group of prosecutors in California has called out New York billionaire George Soros for meddling in several local district attorney races taking place across the Golden State.
Michele Hanisee, President of the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys, warned of Soros’ ongoing attempts “to buy the criminal justice system” in a pair of editorials recently posted on the organization’s website:
Now, California is in the crosshairs of Soros funded campaigns that target District Attorney races in San Diego, Alameda, Yolo and Sacramento counties.
District Attorney elections used to be lightly financed campaigns largely focusing on personal qualifications. Definitions of criminal conduct and the proper penalties for that conduct were left to be decided in the political process by legislation or initiative. … Soros has seized on District Attorney races to bypass the legislative process, seeking to elect candidates who support Soros’ political agenda and social views. A staple of these candidates is the promise not to enforce laws with which they disagree.
An example of this is the candidate Soros is now backing in San Diego County, who promises not to “enforce what we call the quality of life offenses”...
That candidate is Genevieve Jones-Wright, a deputy public defender who could effectively decriminalize low-level offenses — which she says disproportionately affect homeless people — by refusing to charge certain crimes. She also considers “mass incarceration” a “public health epidemic.” Her opponent is San Diego County Interim District Attorney Summer Stephan, who has been endorsed by several prosecutors in Southern California.
Mr. Soros recently contributed $1.5 million to a political action committee called California Justice & Public Safety, which is supporting Jones-Wright’s campaign.
In an email to the San Diego Union-Tribune, a consultant for Stephan wrote: “It is a shockingly large amount of money to dump into this race and will overwhelm the airwaves.”
The Soros-backed PAC has spent more than $400,000 on television commercials, digital ads, and campaign mailers promoting Jones-Wright. However, the committee is also backing several other progressive D.A. candidates throughout the state, vying to transform the concept of criminal justice in California.
As the Associated Press recently reported:
Soros’ contributions through the California Justice & Public Safety Political Action Committee aim to unseat sitting prosecutors in Alameda, Sacramento and San Diego counties and back Diana Becton, who was appointed Contra Costa County’s first woman and first African-American district attorney last year. The races are non-partisan, meaning no party affiliation appears on the ballot by the candidates’ names. But several candidates Soros is backing identify as Democrats.
It’s a spinoff of the tens of millions of dollars he has spent previously to liberalize drug policies and criminal penalties. ...
The committee has disbursed more than $130,000 toward efforts supporting Oakland civil rights attorney Pamela Price, who is “known for her sharp criticism of police,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. She’s facing Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, who is seeking a third term.
More than $375,000 has been spent advancing Noah Phillips’ candidacy in Sacramento County. The county prosecutor is focusing on police accountability and racial inequality following the fatal officer-involved shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man killed in the backyard of his grandmother’s Sacramento home earlier this year. The incumbent D.A., Anne Marie Schubert, has suggested Phillips is politicizing that tragedy. Several law enforcement groups have endorsed her.
Soros-funded political action committees started targeting local district attorney races in 2015 when he divvied up more than $1 million to help elect two progressive D.A.’s and re-elect a third. In 2016, Soros invested at least $3.8 million more, intervening in nine D.A. elections throughout the country. He poured more than $1.6 million into last year’s D.A. race in Philadelphia, where his anti-incarceration candidate won in a landslide and quickly implemented new policies crafted to keep people out of jail.
Hanisee and other California prosecutors caution that Soros has launched “a new assault on criminal justice and public safety” within the state.
“Soros’ goal is to use his vast wealth to fund last minute campaign ads and subvert the democratic process, benefiting criminals at the expense of law-abiding citizens,” writes Hanisee. “He has succeeded in electing anti-law enforcement candidates in 12 of the 14 elections he has bankrolled nationwide.”
California’s statewide primary election is June 5.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.