More than $14 million has been pumped into November’s contentious Los Angeles County district attorney race, with donors lining up on opposing sides of a stark ideological divide between incumbent Jackie Lacey and challenger George Gascón.
Spending in the race has intensified recently, with New York billionaire George Soros and Bay Area philanthropist Patty Quillin each putting $1.5 million behind Gascón. Quillin and her husband, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, have helped Gascón maintain a fundraising lead over Lacey, who has millions of dollars in support from law enforcement unions up and down the state.
Campaign consultants say the high dollar figures highlight the stakes in the race, which has for some become the latest battleground in the larger nationwide debate over police reform.
Lacey is seeking her third term in office. She and her supporters have warned that a Gascón victory would lead to increases in crime. Their campaign spending is going toward ads portraying Gascón as soft on crime, citing his support for sentencing reforms and reduced jail populations.
Gascón is seeking to harness the momentum of the police reform movement and the protests that swept America this summer. He has promised a raft of reforms if elected, and advertisements funded by his supporters cast Lacey as an obstacle to change.
Distinct groups fuel each side
Because of limits on how much money can be contributed directly to the candidates’ campaigns, the vast majority of the funding in the contest has come from Super PACs, which are not subject to contribution limits.
On Gascón’s side, a set of wealthy advocates, mainly concentrated in the Bay Area, have contributed a majority of the funds. Lacey’s campaign is boosted primarily by law enforcement unions.
Percentage of total donations
For Lacey, the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs has led the way, joined by contributions from unions representing rank-and-file city police officers and state corrections officers. The San Francisco Police Officers Assn., which warred with Gascón during his tenure as the district attorney there, has also backed Lacey.
|Law enforcement unions backing Lacey||Total contributed|
|Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs||$1,300,000|
|California Correctional Peace Officers Assn.||1,001,500|
|Los Angeles Police Protective League||1,000,000|
|Peace Officers Research Assn. of California||724,750|
|Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Assn.||386,500|
|San Francisco Police Officers Assn.||110,000|
|California State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police||100,000|
|San Jose Police Officers' Assn.||65,000|
|San Bernardino Sheriff's Employees Benefits Assn.||50,000|
|Long Beach Police Officers Assn.||50,000|
|Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs Assn.||25,000|
|Riverside Sheriff's Assn.||25,000|
|California Assn. of Highway Patrolmen||25,000|
|San Diego Police Officers Assn.||15,000|
|Oakland Police Officers' Assn.||15,000|
|Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Assn.||13,000|
|Fresno Police Officers Assn.||10,000|
|California Statewide Law Enforcement Assn.||10,000|
|Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriffs Assn.||10,000|
|Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriffs Assn.||5,000|
|Sacramento Police Officers Assn.||5,000|
|Los Angeles School Police Assn.||4,700|
|Santa Monica Police Officers Assn.||3,000|
|Assn. of Deputy District Attorneys||3,000|
|Glendale Police Officers Assn.||2,000|
|Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs||1,500|
|Huntington Beach Police Officers Assn.||1,500|
|Newport Beach Police Employees Assn.||1,000|
|Corona Police Officers Assn.||1,000|
The race to be Los Angeles County’s next top prosecutor is one of the most important on the ballot this November. Review The Times’ coverage and make sure you're ready to cast your vote.
A majority of the money backing Gascón has come in the form of six- and seven-figure checks from wealthy individuals who favor criminal justice reform. Some of the largest contributors have funded past efforts to reform California’s criminal justice system and have backed progressive challengers to local prosecutors in other major cities, sometimes unsuccessfully.
While Gascón has attracted support from Angelenos, much of his money comes from progressives based in the Bay Area with ties to tech companies such as Netflix, Facebook, Instagram and Google. Their support may be due, in part, to Gascón’s ties to the region. He grew up in Southern California and served in the LAPD before earning a reputation as a reformer in his time as San Francisco’s police chief and then district attorney.
|Wealthy individuals backing Gascón||Total contributed|
|Patty Quillin Philanthropist and wife of Reed Hastings||$1,503,000|
|George Soros Democratic mega-donor and founder of Open Society Foundations||1,500,000|
|Elizabeth D. Simons Chair of the Heising-Simons Foundation||785,000|
|Reed Hastings Netflix CEO and husband of Patty Quillin||500,000|
|M. Quinn Delaney Founder of Akonadi Foundation||428,000|
|Cari Tuna Open Philanathropy co-founder||225,000|
|Susan Pritzker Part of Hyatt hotels founding family||191,500|
|Nicole Shanahan ClearAccess IP founder and CEO||150,000|
|Kaitlyn Krieger Co-founder of the Future Justice Fund||144,000|
|Kate Capshaw Actress and Democratic donor||50,000|
|David Mills Stanford Law School professor and husband of Anne Devereux-Mills||28,000|
|Anne Devereux-Mills Parlay House founder; worked to pass Three Strikes reform in California||28,000|
|Anne Rosenbaum Irwin Founder of Smart Justice California||13,000|
The shifting momentum
Gascón narrowly forced a November runoff, holding Lacey under the threshold she needed to end the contest in March’s primary election.
Now, following large-scale protests over the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, Lacey has lost the support of some prominent local politicians, including Rep. Adam Schiff and L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti, and Gascón is seeing a surge in fundraising.
In recent weeks, Gascón's supporters have outpaced the coalition backing Lacey, and the challenger has taken a fundraising lead.
Cumulative fundraising total