California Justice & Public Safety PAC is a left-of-center PAC that was created in 2018 to fund the campaigns of progressive Democratic candidates for district attorney in several cities in California. The organization is the California branch of the vast “Safety and Justice” network, a project of left-leaning billionaire George Soros that used a network of similarly named state-level PACs to finance the campaigns of progressive Democratic candidates for district attorney in more than a dozen of America’s cities.
Over its lifespan California Justice & Public Safety has provided support to the campaigns of four different candidates: Genevieve Jones-Wright for San Diego County District Attorney, Pamela Price for Alameda County District Attorney, Diana Becton for Contra Costa County District Attorney, and Noah Phillips for Sacramento County District Attorney.
According to outside reports, the organization spent $402,000 supporting Jones-Wright’s campaign to unseat incumbent San Diego District Attorney, Summer Stephan. Jones-Wright’s campaign was ultimately unsuccessful.
In Alameda County, Pamela Price’s campaign reportedly received $550,000 of support from California Justice & Public Safety in the form of advertisements and mailings that attacked incumbent District Attorney Nancy O’Malley for being soft on police misconduct and for accepting donations from police unions. Price’s campaign was also unsuccessful, and Price was defeated in the primary election.
Diana Becton’s campaign for reelection in Contra Costa County reportedly received far less support, only $100,000, from California Justice & Public Safety. Despite this, Becton’s re-election bid was successful.
Noah Phillips’ campaign for Sacramento County District Attorney also reportedly received $400,000 in support from the organization to challenge incumbent Anne Marie Schubert. Phillips ultimately failed to unseat Schubert and lost the election.
California Justice & Public Safety’s significant involvement in numerous elections across California was poorly received by many. Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the conservative Criminal Justice Legal Foundation said the organization was being used to politicize District Attorney offices at the expense of the public wellbeing; “Soros is definitely trying to push a political view … As far as the candidates themselves go, it’s not unusual to find somebody who wants to move up to a higher office. Whether they are suited for the office is another question.” Concerns about the suitability of candidates that the organization backed were compounded by their sudden and unexpected desire to run for office, for example in the case of Pamela Price, The Mercury News reported that just a month before California Justice & Public Safety spent large sums in support of her campaign Price had said that she “never wanted to be a prosecutor,” the main job of a district attorney.
California Justice & Public Safety has also drawn indirect criticism due to the controversial beliefs and statements of the candidates they back. Pamela Price for example became a subject of ridicule for her statement that she would not prosecute misdemeanor offenses, a statement which she was eventually walked back after public backlash.
In 2019, Contra Costa County Chief Prosecutor Phyllis Redmond resigned out of anger and disgust with Dianna Becton’s authoritarian leadership style and radical views on the law. Redmond, Becton’s second in command, said that Becton had stopped seeking advice from her and the other prosecutors on important decisions, and that the “final straw” had been Becton’s handling of a plea deal freeing Freddie Lee Taylor, whose 1985 conviction in the rape and murder of an 84 year old woman had recently been overturned, though Taylor had already plead guilty to the reduced charge of manslaughter in February 2019. Redmond had been with the district attorney’s office since 1989, but joined more than a dozen prosecutors who had quit since Becton had taken office.
In 2020. Becton was again criticized for her offices internal policy that required prosecutors and law enforcement to consider why a person was stealing or looting before prosecuting or arresting them during the state of emergency issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sean Wright, mayor of Antioch California said that Becton’s policy was “unbelievable”. “I am disturbed by our Contra Costa County District Attorney’s announcement that our police officers must consider if looters ‘needed’ stolen property before they can charge them with looting,” Wright wrote in email to his supporters. Wright argued that Becton’s new policy would enable virtually any type of theft to go unpunished, saying “According to our DA, if the looters ‘need’ an item in a retail shop, for example, it is OK for them to take that item without being charged. I don’t agree with this approach”.
California Justice & Public Safety is led by its chairman, Whitney Tymas, who serves as the head of the widely dispersed “Safety and Justice” network. Tymas also served on the board of the Civic Participation Action Fund (CPAF).