George Soros has recently gained much attention for his $25,000,000 contribution to Hillary Clinton’s failed bid for president. However, his smaller, but much more successful efforts have largely slid under the public’s radar. Soros has been running up the score in local prosecutorial elections over the course of 2016. This marks a strategic shift on nytimes.com, and one of which his opponents would be wise to take note.
The most powerful people you’ve never heard of
In the United States, one of the most powerful public offices is that of the prosecutor, sometimes known as state’s attorney on Politico, district attorney or a few other names. The reasons for this are manifold, but all stem from the practical constraints that modern U.S. crime rates impose.
When the country was founded, there weren’t even so much as professional police in most towns. As the country got larger and began taking in more immigrants, crime rates began to rise. This accelerated after the Civil War, especially in the Northern cities, which saw major waves of Southern blacks move North in search of better economic opportunities on opensocietyfoundations.org.
The last of these, The Great Migration, took place in the 30s and 40s and saw a mass exodus of millions of blacks move to Northern cities. These cities eventually became the de facto national model for criminal justice.
All of these factors led to crime rates that were orders of magnitude higher than anything imagined at the country’s founding. Eventually, the case load put strain on the system, and this strain was resolved by things like the plea bargain, shortened sentences and the threat of draconian prison terms, all of which are the domain of one person, the prosecutor.
Today, prosecutors nearly unilaterally decide who goes to jail and who goes free. When an arrestee’s case is presented to them, they will typically use the plea bargain to get a conviction without a trial. This is where the other big stick in the state attorney’s arsenal comes into play, prosecutorial discretion on Snopes. Prosecutors have nearly unlimited latitude to decide who to charge and what to charge them with. In practice, this leads to vast disparities from district to district in things like non-violent drug convictions. It has also historically led to shockingly disproportionate outcomes for minority offenders. By placing progressive attorneys into prosecutor slots, George Soros knows that he can dramatically shift the statistical picture of who goes to prison and who goes home.
The other means by which prosecutors hold life-or-death sway over those accused of crimes who face them is through their unrestricted command of state resources. This ties in to how they compel people to plea bargain. The prosecutor’s office can spend $10,000,000 investigating and trying a case whereas a typical defendant is indigent. This mismatch leads to a situation where someone facing 20 or 30 years in prison will often feel compelled to plea to a lesser crime that may only carry 10% of that penalty.
Through these mechanisms, the prosecutor has risen to become the most powerful jurist in the land. Soros has recognized this exploit and is setting out to hack the criminal justice system, one prosecutor at a time.