The president of an association representing nearly 1,000 deputy district attorneys (DA) in Los Angeles has raised concerns about an ongoing effort by special interest groups, predominately funded by liberal megadonor George Soros, to influence the outcome of local district attorney races.
Michele Hanisee, the president of the Deputy District Attorneys Association of Los Angeles County (ADDA), says these special interest groups are seeking to circumvent the entire democratic process by electing DA candidates who have vowed to not enforce categories of crime—many who are known as progressive prosecutors—in their effort to “radically reshape the criminal justice system.”
Hanisee says these groups, which are operating across the country, spend large amounts of money usually in the final months before a primary or general election to boost their preferred candidate. The groups are usually super political action committees (PACs) that take on some form of the moniker “Justice & Public Safety.”
For example, the Philadelphia Justice & Public Safety super PAC spent nearly $1.7 million to help attorney Larry Krasner win his DA seat in 2017. Soros was the main donor to the PAC, donating $1.45 million during the democratic primary, according to campaign finance reports (pdf) reviewed by The Epoch Times. He donated another $214,000 into the PAC in May after the primaries (pdf). Most of the PAC’s spending a month leading up to the primaries was on advertising and literature in support of Krasner’s campaign.
Krasner, a notable progressive prosecutor who has faced criticism for his extreme plans for criminal justice system reform, emerged as the victor in a crowded Democratic field and then cruised to victory during the general election in the mainly blue city. He has subsequently implemented policies that reduce prosecution and has also repeatedly clashed with law enforcement and placed 29 Philadelphia police officers on the DA’s “do not call” list, The Philidelphia Inquirer reported.
This was also seen in other DA races such as in Bexar County, Texas, where the Soros-funded Texas Justice & Public Safety PAC dropped nearly $1 million of in-kind contributions supporting Joe Gonzales’s campaign, according to campaign finance reports filed by Gonzales.
Hanisee said that most of these local elections used to be small with the communities deciding who got elected but these Soros-funded PACs are now coming in and imposing their philosophies about criminal justice reform on that community.
“Suddenly an outsider is coming to influence that election and bringing in someone who is, if not an outsider to the system, then certainly adversarial to it in the fact that they want to get into a position where they are going to be taking an oath to uphold the law, yet their campaign promise is to ignore the law,” Hanisee told The Epoch Times.
“The concern with the philosophy of it is that by backing candidates to promise not to enforce the law, they can bypass the entire democratic system of legislation,” she added. “So instead of lobbying to change the law, they just buy an elected official into office who won’t uphold the law. And that’s not democracy.”
She said that traditionally, district attorneys are elected based on their job experience, experience as an administrator, experience in law enforcement, and their record in the community. But she said now elections are suddenly based on promises such as “not on how to enforce the law, but simply not to enforce the law,” she said.
She said that although these PACs have been trying to influence the DA races, not all of them have been successful in California. In the San Diego County DA race last year, for example, then-interim DA Summer Stephan defeated Soros-funded challenger Genevieve Jones-Wright, a deputy public defender. Soros-funded California Justice & Public Safety PAC spent around $400,000 in support of Jones-Wright, according to inewsource. Jones-Wright had promised policies that would stop “criminalizing poverty,” such as ending the prosecution of “quality of life” offenses.
Hanisee said she believes a factor as to why Jones-Wright failed to win was because Stephan had a powerful campaign educating the public on what Jones-Wright’s policies really meant to the community.
“The San Diego election was a really good example of the public defender defense attorney running for the position of district attorney who had no administrative experience in her own office, no prosecutorial experience, and was running on a campaign that she would not enforce certain laws, had huge financial backing, but also had a very powerful campaign against her by a PAC supporting the local district attorney that did their very, very best to educate the public of what this person really wanted to do, what these promises meant, and what it means to not enforce a whole class of crimes,” she said.
Hanisee said that although different locales have different circumstances, she hopes to see traditional law enforcement and prosecutor organizations take a more proactive stance in educating the public about progressive prosecutors.
“I think what needs to happen is traditional law enforcement and prosecutors organization, which has been reactive, instead [become] proactive in educating the public about what we’re doing, and in educating the public about what these outsider candidates really mean,” she said.
Along with donating to the super PACs, Soros has through his organizations supported third party organizations that are also trying to influence DA races. Soros’s Open Society Foundations granted $50 million to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 2014, supporting their effort to reform the criminal justice system—in particular, mass incarceration.
Hanisee is currently watching the upcoming Los Angeles County DA race closely and is wary about challenger George Gascon, who is known for his progressive criminal reform agenda from his time as San Francisco’s District Attorney.
Gascon announced his bid in L.A. county in October challenging incumbent Jackie Lacey. He has promised a range of policies to remake the criminal justice system, like bail reform.
Hanisee, who expressed support for Lacey, has raised concerns about Gascon’s proposed policies, citing his San Francisco record.
“San Francisco has gone from a shining city by the bay to a city of poop and needle. They have maps an app for human waste reporting and cleanup because there’s so much of it. Millions and millions of used needles have to be picked up off the street because they hand out more than are collected and they’re left lying in parks where children play,” she said. “And these are very much based on the policies of his office [on] not to prosecute entire classes of crimes.”
She noted in an op-ed posted on the ADDA website that she believes Gascon’s not-to-enforce policies are likely to attract Soros PAC money.