Back in the day, district attorneys sought to throw the book at criminals, but thanks to progressive mega-donors like George Soros, today’s prosecutors look increasingly like San Francisco’s Chesa Boudin.
Mr. Boudin, a former Hugo Chavez translator and the son of Weather Underground radicals, doesn’t believe in charging offenders for any number of “quality of life” crimes, including prostitution, public urination, defecating on sidewalks, and “public camping.”
His upset victory last week over Democratic establishment candidate Suzy Loftus alarmed San Francisco police officers like Sgt. Tony Montoya, who worried that the election will make the city safer for criminals and more perilous for law-abiding tourists and residents.
“You’re sending a very, very wrong message that you can come into San Francisco and do whatever you want, and there are no consequences,” said Sgt. Montoya, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, which opposed Mr. Boudin’s candidacy.
A deputy public defender, Mr. Boudin comes as the latest in a string of county and municipal district attorneys elected with enormous donations from wealthy left-wing donors, an effort spurred by the 2014 Ferguson riots and rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Also prevailing in the Nov. 5 election was Democrat Jack Stollsteimer, who edged Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland in the Philadelphia suburbs, thanks in part to a $1 million donation from Mr. Soros to his pro-Stollsteimer Pennsylvania Justice & Public Safety PAC.
The playbook was similar to the one Mr. Soros used to help elect progressive prosecutors such as Kim Foxx in Chicago, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, and Rachael Rollins in Suffolk County, Massachusetts. All three endorsed Mr. Boudin.
Overwhelming the opposition with cash doesn’t always work, especially now that other candidates have been forewarned about the Soros onslaught.
In May 2018, prosecutor Kevin Barton beat back a challenge from Soros-funded candidate Max Wall in Washington County, Oregon, in part because Mr. Barton was able to counter the funding surge with support from local donors like Nike’s Phil Knight, as reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting.
In June, three of four Soros-backed candidates in California lost their bids to upend incumbent prosecutors who loudly denounced the effort to usher in DAs “bought and paid for by a billionaire with no ties to our community,” as Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert put it.
Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys in Los Angeles County, has been outspoken about the out-of-state interference, accusing Mr. Soros of attempting to “bypass the legislative process” with candidates who support his “political agenda and social views.”
“A staple of these candidates is the promise not to enforce laws with which they disagree,” said Ms. Hanisee in a 2018 op-ed headlined, “The Ongoing Attempt to Buy the Criminal Justice System.”
Mr. Soros isn’t working alone. He donated $50 million in 2014 to the ACLU to “support its nationwide campaign to end mass incarceration,” while other groups have stepped in to campaign to seat progressive district attorneys.
Case in point is Mr. Boudin, who was the race’s top fundraiser at $623,000 despite no obvious Soros fingerprints. He received a high-profile endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders, and support from the SEIU and the Real Justice PAC, co-founded by activist Shaun King and former Sanders campaign staffers.
The PAC’s biggest funder is the Open Philanthropy Project’s Cari Tuna, wife of Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Meanwhile, Ms. Loftus lost despite the overwhelming support of the Democratic power base in California, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, as well as Gov. Gavin Newsom. Mr. Soros is one of the party’s biggest donors.
“Even though you may not have seen the Soros money directly attached to this, you saw people connected to Soros making the donations,” said Sgt. Montoya. “I think that the Bernie Sanders last-minute endorsement kind of energized his movement. Bernie Sanders is an influential person, and it didn’t hurt his campaign any, that’s for sure.”
The police association and other law-enforcement groups put up the fiercest resistance to Mr. Boudin, whose platform included ending cash bail, prosecuting ICE agents who “break California law,” and review past convictions of immigrants facing deportation.
At his victory party, San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer led the crowd in chants of “F—- the POA,” as shown on video, prompting the Police Officers Association to demand an apology. Mr. Boudin did not attend.
Most district attorneys don’t have parents serving prison time for murder, but Mr. Boudin’s campaign was able to turn the candidate’s past to his advantage. In an ad, he talks about how his parents’ incarceration framed his views on criminal justice.
“Growing up, I had to go through a metal detector and steel gates just to give my parents a hug,” said Mr. Boudin in the video, adding that “prison visits teach hard lessons. I learned that our criminal justice system is broken. It’s a system of mass incarceration, plagued by radical disparities.”
His parents were sentenced for their roles as getaway drivers in the 1981 Brink’s robbery that resulted in the murders of two officers and a security guard. He was raised by their friends, radicals Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. His mother, Kathy Boudin, was paroled in 2003, while his father, David Gilbert, remains in prison.
“This is not about, everyone goes to prison for the rest of their lives, but if we’re going to be doing any kind of reforming, let’s be thoughtful,” said Sgt. Montoya. “But this criminal-before-the-victim-type policy from a public safety standpoint is very dangerous.”
Despite his mixed success in California, Mr. Soros may be unable to resist the 2020 race for Los Angeles County District Attorney. Former San Francisco DA George Gascon recently moved to Los Angeles with the goal of unseating DA Jackie Lacey in the March 2020 primary.
Meanwhile, the Real Justice PAC has endorsed two Texas progressives running for DA, Jose Garza in Travis County (Austin) and Audia Jones in Harris County (Houston). The election is March 3.