ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Mega-donor George Soros (right), who funded the ongoing Ferguson protests, has waded into the St. Louis City circuit attorney election, funding a television ad for state Rep. Kim Gardner (left). Gardner will compete with three others in the primary election Aug. 2.
At least one ad funded by by Soros’ Safety and Justice committee has been created for Gardner. The ad focuses on Gardner’s plan to Kim Gardner’s Plan to focus on mental health care for non-violent offenders, increase public accountability and to crack down on gang violence.
“Together, we can make St. Louis safe by being smart and tough on crime by reforming a broken system,” she says in the video.
Safety and Justice, which paid for the ad, reported $30,000 in contributions since it was formed April 21. In the July quarterly filings, it reported spending $26,700 on NGP VAN, a Washington-based liberal campaign consulting company and Gordon Loewen Research, a political, focused on progressive issues based in Minneapolis.
Wednesday, Gardner’s campaign reported a $67,693.23 in-kind contribution from Safety and Justice, likely related to the media buy.
So far, time for the ad has only been purchased on cable stations, totaling $52,000 on Charter Communications stations in St. Louis. The ads will run through the primary election.
This isn’t Soros’ first foray into a local prosecutor election over the past couple of years. He’s funded candidates in places as different as Houston, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; two races in Mississippi; Bossier City, Louisiana and Chicago.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Soros also funded multiple groups, including Safety and Justice California, to support the state’s Proposition 47, approved by voters in 2014 and which reclassified possession of heroin, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs, and theft of $950 or less, as misdemeanors in California.
The goals of Proposition 47 coincide with the goals of the candidates Safety and Justice has supported — mainly reforming the criminal justice system and moving away from jail time for low-level offenses.
However, some of Soros’ projects have earned him backlash from critics who say those groups extended the Ferguson unrest.
“In all, Mr. Soros gave at least $33 million in one year to support already-established groups that emboldened the grass-roots, on-the-ground activists in Ferguson, according to the most recent tax filings of his nonprofit Open Society Foundations,” wrote Washington Times columnist Kelly Riddell in 2015. “The financial tether from Mr. Soros to the activist groups gave rise to a combustible protest movement that transformed a one-day criminal event in Missouri into a 24-hour-a-day national cause celebre.”
Local police groups have noticed the connection as well and were upset with Gardner’s acceptance of the donation. Joe Steiger, president of the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association, said the contrbution was a “problem”
“It’s kind of insulting to our members, if I’m being completely honest with you,” he said. “Out all races the circuit attorney race probably affects the police the most and for her to take money from out of state activists is a problem for us.”
“It caused problems, not only for police officers, but put peaceful protesters in harm’s way,” he said referencing Soros’ money connection to the Ferguson unrest. “It’s just a problem to be accepting money from someone who’s promoting that type of activity.”
Soros’ injection into the race in St. Louis could have a significant impact. His $67,000 contribution to Gardner more than doubles her available cash on hand, which was $63,000 in her July filing report.
She still sits behind Mary Pat Carl, currently the lead homicide prosecutor in the city, who reported $145,000 cash on hand last week. Gardner is also competing against Patrick Hamacher ($57,000 cash on hand) and Steve Harmon ($19,000 cash on hand).