Immediately after a heated debate last Thursday that focused on police accountability, the criminalization of homelessness, and the use of gang databases, interim San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan spoke to a handful of reporters in a room not far from the stage at the Chula Vista library. There, she fielded several questions about the impact that campaign contributions have had on the race, amid reports that a PAC funded by George Soros, a billionaire pushing for criminal justice reform nationwide, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of her opponent, Geneviéve Jones-Wright.
During the contentious campaign, Stephan has been positioned — and often touted herself — as “law enforcement’s choice.” But, she insisted to the reporters that night, her campaign hadn’t received any financial benefits from that support.
“Police unions have not given me campaign donations and I don’t accept campaign donations from my own team,” Stephan said, responding to a question from In Justice Today. “Because I want to be very ethical when I promote them or do anything. Nor have I accepted donations from victims’ groups that we have contracts with.”
And while it’s true that Stephan’s campaign itself hasn’t accepted donations from law enforcement unions, In Justice Today has found that political action committees associated with local law enforcement groups have already spent at least $313,000 to support Stephan, and almost $5,000 on negative advertisements against her opponent.
The PAC that has given the greatest amount of support to Stephan, San Diegans Against Crime, is associated with her own office. Sponsored by the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association, the group is comprised mostly of her own staff members (the La Mesa Police Officers Association PAC recently contributed $5,000 to it as well). The PAC has spent over $277,000 on Stephan’s re-election campaign on signs, television commercials, mailers, and polling. In contrast, Stephan’s own campaign has so far only spent just over $214,000 in 2018, according to its last filing.
Other spending in support of Stephan from law enforcement includes $12,700 from the San Diego Police Officers Association PAC, and the Deputy Sheriffs Association PAC, which has already spent $23,630.
Stephan’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.