As we recently noted, with hundreds of millions of dollars poured into presidential and congressional elections in the United States it can be difficult, even for mega donors like George Soros, to truly understand how much influence is being "bought." That's why Soros is pursuing a new strategy to dump millions into the campaigns of local district attorneys, a position which "exercises the greatest discretion and power in the system." So far, Soros has funneled $3 million into seven local DA races over the past year but his support is "expected to intensify in the next few years, thanks to longer-term planning and candidate recruitment." In general, Soros looks to fund progressive DAs running on platforms to "reduce racial disparity in sentencing" and support prison "diversion programs" for drug offenders instead of trials that could result in jail time.
And now it appears, as Politico's Scott Bland reports, Soros' efforts to "reshape the American justice system" are accelerating as the billionaire has contributed $2 million to a group working to defeat Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona, the latest target of Soros’ big spending in local law enforcement campaigns over the past year.
The Soros-funded PAC, Maricopa Strong, will file campaign finance documents Friday showing Soros’ multi-million dollar investment against Arpaio, along with $500,000 from Texas energy billionaires Laura and John Arnold and $250,000 from Laurene Powell Jobs (the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs). The group had previously reported a $300,000 donation from Soros, one of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors.
Soros has spent millions in 2015 and 2016 funding campaigns to defeat local prosecutors around the country and elect new ones who back criminal justice reform measures. Soros-backed groups are currently spending big in three big-city district attorney races: Houston’s Harris County, where Soros has contributed over $1 million, according to local campaign finance filings; Gilpin and Jefferson counties outside Denver, where Soros has given about $1.5 million to unseat an incumbent; and Phoenix’s Maricopa County, where a Soros-funded PAC has also spent over $1 million against the Republican district attorney, Bill Montgomery.
But, as Bland points out, Soros’ spending against Arpaio, a high-profile liberal bogeyman, is his single biggest investment in a local race this year, as well as the billionaire’s first effort against a sheriff. It folds in immigration reform, another policy passion of Soros’, alongside criminal justice reform.
Arpaio made his name in Arizona and nationally as an opponent of illegal immigration. He was charged by federal prosecutors last month with contempt of court for violating an order to halt discriminatory policing practices.
Maricopa Strong has spent $2.9 million in the sheriff’s race, with the donations from Soros and others funding a flurry of mailers and TV ads boosting Democratic candidate Paul Penzone and hammering Arpaio. Soros has typically been the sole funder of his local outside-spending campaigns around the country, though Jobs and the Arnolds joined him in funding Maricopa Strong.
“Rapes, assaults, even child molestation remained uninvestigated while Arpaio focuses on his personal agenda,” the narrator says in one of the group’s TV ads. “Arpaio talks tough, but he doesn’t keep us safe.”
Arpaio’s campaign has attacked Soros’ efforts, calling him a “far-left globalist,” saying he is trying to buy a local race, and alleging that his group has broken disclosure rules, per the Arizona Republic.
“We made a major investment in the effort to defeat Joe Arpaio for two reasons,” said Michael Vachon, a Soros spokesperson. “First, Joe Arpaio has been a stain on the justice system in Arizona for more than two decades, violating civil rights and abusing his office. Second, his influence on the national conversation about immigration has been poisonous. This election is an opportunity to send a message: when matched on an even playing field, the values of justice and inclusion will defeat the politics of fear-mongering and intolerance."
That said, we're sure any objections to George's plan is derived from a simple misunderstanding of his motives. After all, last time someone said he wanted to "fundamentally transform" America it worked out pretty well, right?