George Soros, the billionaire financier, is ponying up serious cash to reform the US criminal justice system.
Soros has pumped over $3 million into seven local district-attorney campaigns in six states in the past year, reports Politico.
Soros is pushing the money into local elections in Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas through a network of state-level super PACs and a national “527” unlimited-money group, according to Politico.
The money has benefited African-American and Hispanic candidates who ran on progressive platforms like reducing racial disparities in sentencing, and directing drug offenders to diversion programs instead of to trial.
Electing reform-minded prosecutors is a major goal of progressive figures such as Soros. Prosecutors have “tremendous power” in how the law is interpreted, specifically when deciding what kind of sentences the state will pursue, John Pfaff, a professor of criminal law at Fordham University told The Atlantic in May.
And often, prosecutors in strongly partisan counties will run unopposed for many terms. This allows incumbents to wield enormous influence, and “lock in the criminal-justice status quo,” David Rogers, the Oregon ACLU director wrote in a report investigating district-attorney elections.
Soros’s efforts have shown some success in unseating incumbents. On Tuesday, a Soros-backed candidate, Aramis Ayala, handily defeated incumbent Jeff Ashton in a central Florida county that covers parts of Orlando.
Soros’s group poured $975,000 into Ayala’s campaign in August, compared to the $112,445 Ashton raised for his re-election, according to The Orlando Sentinel.
Ashton, who’s well-known for prosecuting Casey Anthony, was linked to racially-charged policies in ads released by Soros’s PAC.