The Ongoing Attempt to Buy the Criminal Justice System
By Michele Hanisee
In 2016, Peter Weir was re-elected District Attorney, Jefferson and Galpin Counties, Colorado after weathering more than $1.3 million in viciously negative and false ads funded by George Soros. That campaign was one of more than a dozen District Attorney campaigns nationwide where Soros funded political action committees poured in huge sums of money at the last minute to elect candidates sharing his political and social justice agenda, particularly regarding opposing incarceration. Now, California is in the crosshairs of Soros funded campaigns that target District Attorney races in San Diego, Alameda, Yolo and Sacramento counties.
District Attorney elections used to be lightly financed campaigns largely focusing on personal qualifications. Definitions of criminal conduct and the proper penalties for that conduct were left to be decided in the political process by legislation or initiative. Now, as DA Weir notes, Soros has seized on District Attorney races to bypass the legislative process, seeking to elect candidates who support Soros’ political agenda and social views. A staple of these candidates is the promise not to enforce laws with which they disagree.
An example of this is the candidate Soros is now backing in San Diego County, who promises not to “enforce what we call the quality of life offenses” with which she disagrees. Similarly, in Florida Soros financed District Attorney Aramais Ayala announced she would refuse to seek the death penalty for any case prosecuted by her office. The Governor of Florida promptly removed all pending death penalty cases from her office, a move upheld by the Florida Supreme Court which commented Ayala’s decision “does not reflect an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, it embodies, at best, a misunderstanding of Florida law.”
While many DDA’s are protected by civil service, in the jurisdictions where that protection does not exist Soros financed DA’s have engaged in wholesale purges of experienced prosecutors upon election to “change the culture” and send the message to those remaining that their jobs exist at the political whim of the newly elected DA. In Philadelphia, Soros financed DA Larry Krasner fired 31 DDA’s in his first week of office; nearly one-third were in the homicide unit and included a prosecutor set to begin a murder trial the following Monday who was told “no” when asked to stay to complete that trial. In Houston, the Soros financed DA Kim Ogg (who ironically attacked Soros for supporting her primary opponent before accepting more than $500,000 from him in the general election) fired 37 veteran prosecutors in pursuit of her “culture change.”
Finally, as Soros backed candidates rail against “mass incarceration” it is noteworthy to look at who comprises the prison population in California. In 2008, 71% of California state prison inmates were serving time for a violent, serious, or sexual offense; as of 2016, 91% of state prison inmates are serving time for a violent, serious or sexual offense.
We can’t sum it up any better than DA Weir regarding George Soros’attempts to buy the justice system: “To see some East Coast billionaire who has no idea of local interests acceding to a radical reform agenda at the expense of our democratic process is incredibly dangerous.”
Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.