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It’s Not Just Soros; 5 High-Powered Women Trying To Reshape Nation’s Largest Criminal Justice System
George Soros, billionaire and founder of Soros Fund Management LLC, speaks at an event on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. World leaders, influential executives, bankers and policy makers attend the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos from Jan. 21 - 24. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New York-based billionaire George Soros recently pumped $1.5 million into the district attorney race in Los Angeles County. This November contest will determine the direction of the nation’s largest criminal justice system. The massive contribution went to a political action committee seeking to replace the two-term Democratic incumbent with a more progressive, reform-minded prosecutor. The battle to become the top law enforcement official in L.A. has attracted several other deep-pocketed, outside donors. They include five wealthy, high-powered women from the Bay Area who share Mr. Soros’ vision of sweeping institutional change.

Most of them have been bankrolling efforts to oust sitting L.A. County D.A. Jackie Lacey since early this year. Some have also channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars to back a countywide ballot measure that opponents say would significantly reduce funding to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (LASD). The agency provides policing services to more than forty contract cities and has long been known for operating the biggest jail system in the United States.

While conservatives are generally aware of Soros’ monetary contributions to advance progressive candidates and causes, other major donors sometimes fly under the radar.

Like Soros, these five women are also liberal philanthropists. They use their vast wealth to affect public safety in L.A., America’s most populated county, where more than ten million people live.

1. Patty Quillin, Santa Cruz, CA.

Quillin is the wife of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. They reside hundreds of miles away from L.A. County in the coastal city of Santa Cruz, located about 75 miles south of San Francisco.

Quillin and Hastings pledged to give half of their fortune to philanthropy or charitable causes – a trend started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to “collectively set a new standard of generosity among the ultra-wealthy.”

Since January, Quillin has donated at least $1.25 million to an independent expenditure committee backing District Attorney Lacey’s challenger called “Run, George, Run: George Gascón for LA DA 2020.”

Gascón supporters spent big early to ensure Lacey would not get more than 50% of the vote in the March primary, forcing a November runoff. Lacey won 48.65%, Gascón finished second, with 28.22%. Former public defender Rachel Rossi finished last, with 23.12%.

Gascón, a Cuban émigré who is also a Democrat, is deemed the more progressive candidate. He served eight years as the district attorney of San Francisco but stepped down last October before deciding to enter the L.A. County race.

Public information provided by the California Secretary of State’s Office shows Quillin also dropped $500,000 into efforts supporting Measure J, another countrywide referendum that voters will decide on November 3.

If approved, the initiative would require at least 10% of the county’s general fund to be appropriated to community programs and alternatives to incarceration. According to the L.A. Times, “the county would be prohibited from using the money on prisons, jails or law enforcement agencies.”

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the proposal is an attempt to slash funding from his department.

RELATED: 8 Ways Black Lives Matter Activists Changed The Nation’s Largest Criminal Justice System

“Yes on J – Re-imagine L.A. County” is a coalition of nonprofits, activist groups, along with prominent Black Lives Matter leaders and their allies. BLM’s L.A. chapter is helping with promotional efforts, such as sponsoring multiple phone banks.

Mr. Gascón has endorsed Measure J.

2. Nichole Shanahan, Portola Valley, CA.

Ms. Shanahan, 35, is also a major funder of Measure J.  A recent contribution report reveals a $300,000 donation to the coalition leading the campaign. Shanahan also chipped in $25,000 to promote Gascón last year.

In March, Forbes reported that Shanahan’s husband, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, was worth $58.5 billion.

According to Business Insider, “Shanahan is the founder of legal tech company ClearAccessIP and the Bia-Echo Foundation, whose key investment areas include reproductive health.”

3. Cari Tuna, Palo Alto, CA

The L.A. Times previously reported in 2018 that another pro-Gascón group, the Real Justice PAC, “is underwritten by Cari Tuna, the wife of Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz.” The committee has historically worked alongside Soros-funded independent expenditures to elect progressive prosecutors throughout the country. Successful campaigns include Larry Krasner in Philadelphia and Kim Foxx in Cook County, Illinois.

Tuna has donated at least $1.9 million to Real Justice since 2016. The PAC was co-founded by Shaun King, a racial justice activist associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We can count on Gascón to fight to end mass incarceration, hold police accountable, and find alternatives to jail for people with mental illness,” the Real Justice PAC website says. “DA Jackie Lacey has the establishment on her side, but if enough people join us in supporting Gascón, we can score a major win for reform in Los Angeles that would send ripples everywhere.”

Additionally, Tuna donated $100,000 in February to the “Run, George, Run” PAC supporting Gascón.

Tuna and Moskovitz have also funded “prosecutorial reform” drives through the Open Philanthropy Project, a foundation the billionaire couple co-founded six years ago.

In March, L.A. County voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum to reduce the local jail population and strengthen civilian oversight over the Sheriff’s Department. An Open Philanthropy fund invested more than $1.5 million supporting the measure.

RELATED: LANDSLIDE: Black Lives Matter Leader’s Ballot Measure Wins Big In Los Angeles County

The campaign was chaired by Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter who is also the California director of the Real Justice PAC.

Moskovitz currently has an estimated net worth of $16 billion.

Tuna is a former Wall Street Journal reporter.

4. Elizabeth Simons, Atherton, CA.

Simons lives in the wealthy Bay Area town of Atherton. She donated at least $585,000 to pro-Gascón groups earlier this year, the L.A. Times reported. According to the outlet, Simons “has donated tens of thousands to anti-death-penalty efforts and other criminal justice reform measures in recent years.”

The daughter of a retired hedge fund billionaire, she launched the Heising-Simons Foundation with her husband in 2007. According to Forbes, it was established “largely with funding from trusts her father had created for her.” Last year, it awarded more than $113 million in grants and co-sponsored an event called “L.A. for Abolition: Dismantling Jails and Building Liberation.”

5. M. Quinn Delaney, Oakland, CA.

Delaney is married to Wayne Jordan, founder of Jordan Real Estate Investments in Oakland. She has contributed at least $175,000 to an independent expenditure committee supporting Gascón.

She recently channeled $2 million to back Proposition 16, a statewide initiative on the same ballot as the D.A. race and Measure J.

RELATED: Everything You Need To Know About Prop 16 And The Anti-Discrimination Law It Repeals

Prop 16 would repeal an anti-discrimination law approved by voters nearly a quarter-century ago. Delaney made earlier donations in June and July totaling $1.5 million.

Ms. Delaney, 65, is the founder and board chair of the Akonadi Foundation. According to its website, “Quinn’s strategy is to bridge the work of nonprofit community organizing and political campaigning.”

She is a former board member of the Tides Foundation and ACLU of Northern California.

According to Variety, Jordan and Delaney’s eldest son is the rapper TMG Fresh. The couple’s youngest son, 28-year-old Sam Jordan, recently purchased Demi Lovato’s Hollywood Hills mansion for a reported $8.25 million.

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