Philanthropist Patty Quillin, the wife of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, has donated at least $1.5 million to support efforts to drastically change Los Angeles County’s criminal justice system. The billionaire couple reside hundreds of miles away in Santa Cruz, located about 75 miles south of San Francisco.
According to campaign finance filings, Quillin recently contributed $1 million to a group attempting to replace two-term, incumbent L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey with a more progressive prosecutor. She also dropped another $500,000 in support of a voter referendum (Measure R) that would mandate sweeping changes for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and reduce the jail population. Both contests will appear on the countywide ballot on March 3, also known as Super Tuesday.
Quillin’s million-dollar donation went to an independent expenditure (IE) committee backing former San Francisco D.A. George Gascón, who established a reputation as one of the nation’s most reform-minded prosecutors while serving in that position. He stepped down in October before deciding to enter the race to become L.A. County’s top law enforcement official.
“Run, George, Run: George Gascónfor LA DA 2020” is composed of national leaders from the criminal justice reform community, including Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. The committee has paid for polling, billboard space, and produced a series of ads. According to The New York Times, anti-incarceration activists “have zeroed in on Los Angeles as the ultimate prize for their movement because of its size – it has the biggest jail system and the largest prosecutors office in the country.”
During Gascón’s eight-year prosecutorial tenure in San Francisco, he had the support of New York billionaire George Soros, who has spent more than $20 million to promote likeminded prosecutor candidates throughout the United States. However, Mr. Soros has stayed out of the current race at this point. The pro-Gascón IE’s top individual donors have been Quillin and other philanthropic women from the Bay Area, such as Liz Simons, the daughter of a retired hedge fund billionaire, who gave $500,000 last month.
Quillin is the director of a fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, a group that has awarded more than $6 billion in grants since its formation in 2007. Both she and her husband are reportedly referred to as “black label” donors, meaning they have provided tens of millions of dollars or more to the institution. In 2012, Hastings and Quillin 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.”
The Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University identified Quillin as a financial supporter of a nonprofit publication called “The Appeal,” which focuses on local prosecutors and criminal justice policies. The outlet has recently published several articles that have been critical of D.A. Lacey.Gascón and his campaign have publicized some of the stories on social media.
“[Gascon] championed Assembly Bill 392, now California law, which changed the standard for law enforcement’s use of deadly force to ‘necessary.’ Lacey publicly opposed the law.” #DaDebate #LADA2020 https://t.co/tBa8kuBlzE
— George Gascón (@GeorgeGascon) January 30, 2020
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file LAPD officers, directed $1 million into its own political action committee opposing Gascón. The group recently released a 30-second television ad that began airing on Friday, which focuses on his performance as San Francisco’s D.A. The cop union mocked the Gascón campaign for labeling the spot “racist.”
George Gascon conned Californians into voting for #Prop47, telling us we would be safer; we can’t let him con his way into becoming our district attorney. #conisonwithgascon https://t.co/egeQ0b6R7b pic.twitter.com/a4jXwmX0w0
— LAPPL (@LAPPL) February 6, 2020
Former public defender Rachel Rossi is also in the race. If none of the candidates receive more than 50% of the votes in next month’s primary election, the top two vote-getters will compete in a runoff in November.