Posted on June 6, 2018

Big Spending by George Soros, Liberal Groups Fails to Sway D.A. Races in California

Abbie VanSickle and Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times, June 6, 2018

California voters appeared to reject liberal challengers in three closely watched district attorney races, delivering a sharp defeat to a national network that is attempting to reshape the criminal justice system by electing liberal prosecutors.

Incumbent district attorneys in Sacramento, San Diego and Alameda counties led by large margins, according to unofficial results posted Wednesday by county elections offices. A fourth contested race, in Contra Costa County, appeared headed to a runoff in November if results remain the same.

The elections, typically local affairs, garnered national attention this year after a consortium of wealthy liberal donors, headlined by New York billionaire George Soros, pumped millions of dollars into the races.


If the results become official, it would mark the consortium’s most significant loss in district attorney races.

Since 2014, Soros has spent more than $16 million in more than a dozen races outside California. His favored candidates racked up high-profile victories in Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and other states.

In California, he spent more than $2.7 million. The money from Soros and others helped challengers match or surpass the millions of dollars — mostly from police, prosecutors and local business groups — flowing to incumbents unaccustomed to such organized liberal opposition.


The new strategy targeting district attorney elections highlighted the enormous influence elected prosecutors wield within local criminal justice systems, deciding what charges to prioritize for prosecution and when to seek rehabilitation or lengthy incarceration for criminals. By supporting the election of like-minded district attorneys, the consortium hoped to secure many of the sentencing and bail policies they have struggled to realize through laws or ballot initiatives.

District attorney elections in California have historically been won by candidates who talk tough on crime and have support from local police. But the Soros-backed candidates pledged to reduce incarceration, crack down on police misconduct and revamp a bail system they contend unfairly imprisons poor people before trial.


The campaigns alarmed many in law enforcement, who warned of a slippery slope if prosecutors pick and choose which laws to enforce.

“They’re basically promising in advance to violate their oath of office,” said Michele Hanisee, president of the union that represents L.A. County prosecutors. “It is not the job of an elected district attorney to decide what laws to uphold. The district attorney’s job is to implement the law.”


{snip} In future elections, the consortium plans to mobilize the networks of volunteers and voters built during past campaigns.