Marin DA’s race nears $1M mark as Soros fund chips in

Money raised for the race to determine who will become Marin’s next district attorney is rapidly approaching $1 million, with candidate Anna Pletcher receiving several large donations, including one from billionaire George Soros.

In addition to the district attorney’s race, three local tax measures attracted a significant amount of cash during the reporting period that spanned Sept. 23 to Oct. 20.

Pletcher’s largest donation, $50,000, came from the California Justice and Public Safety political action committee, which is funded by liberal billionaire investor George Soros. Soros has also been in the news lately since he is one of the 14 prominent Democrats who received a pipe bomb in the mail.

Pletcher also received $15,000 from Elizabeth Simons, the daughter of the retired hedge fund billionaire James Simons. Simons previously donated $2,500 to Pletcher’s campaign.

Mary Quinn DeLaney, whose husband Wayne Jordan is founder and principal of Jordan Real Estate Investments of Oakland, gave Pletcher $10,000 during the reporting period, boosting her total contributions to Pletcher’s campaign to $18,000.

And Patricia “Patty” Quillin, whose husband is Neflix CEO Reed Hastings, contributed $10,000 during the reporting period.

Pletcher raised $125,020 during the reporting period. So far, counting the June 5 primary race, Pletcher has raised $464,039. During the same period, her opponent, Lori Frugoli, raised $344,247. A.J. Brady, who finished third in the June 5 primary election, raised more than $131,000 before his defeat.

All but about $6,000 of the $3.65 million that the California Justice and Public Safety political action committee received in contributions this year came from Soros.

For several years now, Soros — an advocate for eliminating racial disparities in sentencing, reforming the cash bail system and sending drug offenders to rehab instead of jail — has been spending liberally to support progressive district attorney candidates all over California and in several states.

As of May 2018, Soros had funneled about $400,000 to Noah Phillips, a deputy prosecutor trying to unseat the incumbent Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert in November, and some $402,000 to San Diego district attorney candidate Genevieve Jones-Wright.

“I’m proud to have his support,” Pletcher said of Soros. “He has been supporting candidates who are trying to end mass incarceration, reform our bail system and bring more forward-thinking approaches to criminal justice reform.”

Pletcher said people need not worry that Soros or other large donors based outside of Marin will have an undue influence on what happens in the county if she is elected on Nov. 6.

“As district attorney I’ll be making decisions based on what I think is right for Marin,” Pletcher said. “Support from people outside the community will have no effect on the decisions that I make as district attorney.”

Andre Charles, Frugoli’s campaign manager, said, “The campaign is very proud that we have received a tremendous amount of financial support from the Marin community, and we will continue to focus on reaching out and connecting the community to the courthouse.”

Frugoli’s largest donation during the last reporting period was $10,000 from Van Midde and Son Concrete in San Rafael.

Charles said voters shouldn’t assume that Pletcher is the reform candidate because Soros is backing her.

“The fact is both candidates support restorative justice, bringing rape exams back to Marin, and protecting our immigrant community,” Charles said. “The only real difference is who has the experience to make lasting change.”

Among the tax measures attracting considerable financial support is Measure J, Tamalpais Union High School District’s proposal to levy a $149 parcel tax for four years. The measure also calls for an annual cost-of-living adjustment of 3 percent.

The Committee for Excellent High Schools, which is backing Measure J, has raised more than $239,000. Major donors include: Tam High Foundation, $49,999; Redwood High School Foundation, $49,999; and Drake Fund, $10,000. All three donors are tax-exempt, 501(c)3 organizations.

Larkspur resident Laurie Dubin, founder of “Be the Influence,” a parenting program that seeks to reduce the high rates of teen binge drinking and drug use in Marin and the Bay Area, also contributed $17,000 to Measure J.

Marin’s Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers (COST) has endorsed Measure J, “because we think it’s necessary to help stabilize the finances at nearly-insolvent Tam Union High School District,” wrote Mimi Willard, COST’s founder and president, in an email.

Willard added, however, “It is bad practice for school foundations’ boards to approve spending foundation money on school parcel taxes or bond measures.

“Parents and community members who donate to school foundations typically do so with the expectation that their tax-deductible contributions will directly enhance the students’ education and enrichment,” Willard wrote.

Willard said several people who contributed to the Kentfield Schools Foundation were upset when $30,000 of foundation money was spent on Measure A, a Kentfield School District parcel tax on the March 2018 ballot.

Emily Uhlhorn of Mill Valley, one of the parents working to help pass Measure J, said all of the money donated by the foundations came from “earned income,” money raised through fundraisers and shopping programs that earmark a percentage of the sales price as a contribution.

“So they didn’t contribute any donor money,” Uhlhorn said.

Karen Loebbaka, president of the Redwood High School Foundation, said her organization raised $130,000 last spring by hosting a single party. The foundation has a reserve fund of $300,000 and is seeking to raise $1.2 million during the course of the current fiscal year, the same amount it raised last year.

The Committee to Keep Marin Moving, which is backing Measure AA, has raised much less. Measure AA would renew the county’s existing half-cent sales tax for transportation expenses for 30 years. The committee received about $67,000 in contributions from Sept. 23 to Oct. 20, bringing its total contributions to just under $99,000.

The committee received donations of $10,000 each from HNTB Corp., an architecture, civil engineering consulting and construction management firm based in Kansas City; Ghilotti Construction Co., based in Santa Rosa; and a Northern California Carpenters Council political action committee. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Marin General Hospital each contributed $5,000.

The committee supporting Measure W, a proposal to increase the transient occupancy tax in West Marin from 10 percent to 14 percent for hotels and short-term rentals, raised $12,500 from Sept. 23 to Oct. 20, boosting its total raised to just over $36,000.

The biggest contributions came from Marion Weber of Stinson Beach, a fourth-generation member of the Rockefeller family whose  paternal great-grandfather was Standard Oil’s founder John D. Rockefeller, and Gail Graham of Ashland, Oregon. Each woman gave $10,000.

Adrianne Dar, director of the Bolinas Community Land Trust, and the Stinson Beach Affordable Housing Committee both contributed $5,000. And film actor Frances McDormand, who lives part-time in Bolinas, chipped in $2,000.

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