George Soros and Social Justice PACs Pour Millions Into Local Prosecutor Campaigns

When we think of hot electoral races to watch, bids for county prosecutor aren’t usually at the top of the list. But this year, elections for district attorney have become flashpoints in a heated debate as stakeholders and billionaires jockey for power over California's criminal justice policies.

One of those billionaires is Hungarian-American hedge fund manager and financier George Soros. Soros and his PACs have poured millions into DA races in Alameda, Sacramento, and San Diego this cycle, raising the stakes and heightening the drama.

Soros has been the sole donor to the PAC, called California Justice & Public Safety, since at least January. On Thursday, Soros gave the PAC $1.5 million, and on that same day, the PAC spent almost $195,000 on television airtime and video production costs to support Jones-Wright in her bid to unseat interim District Attorney Summer Stephan. The next day, it spent $100,000 on digital advertising and another $107,000 on mailings for Jones-Wright.

“This much money is very unusual for a local race like this, particularly out-of-district money,” Carl Luna, a San Diego Mesa College political science professor, said Monday. “Outside of Congress, you don't see races like this attracting that much money.”

The ACLU, the Tides Foundation, and other groups are also stepping up involvement in California’s prosecutor campaigns. Clearly, they see a payoff waiting in the wings.

A spate of recent police shootings involving unarmed black men has galvanized the social justice movement nationwide. Those who want to see further overhaul of California’s criminal justice system also feel emboldened by the success of initiatives like Propositions 47 and 57.

Many are concerned by the trend.

"These people who want to create their own social policy are not worthy of the office," said former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley. "If they win in San Diego or Sacramento, L.A. is next," he warned.

Read more about the criminal justice tug-of-war at KPBS and the L.A. Times.


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