Soros-funded Group Helped Finance Lobbying Campaign Behind Santa Ana Police Oversight Commission

By:Matthew Cunningham

The political organizing and lobbying the led to the creation of a police oversight commission in Santa Ana benefitted from significant financing from the Open Society Foundations, the controversial left-wing grantmaker funded by billionaire George Soros.

A number of community members have long contended that political campaigns to hamstring Santa Ana police enforcement activity stem primarily from activist groups financed by outside organizations, and are not representative of how the majority of residents feel about the police department.

Last November, the city council voted to create a police oversight commission. This was a major goal of the three young progressives elected to the council in 2020 and their activist supporters on the anti-law enforcement Left, who kept up a steady lobbying campaign for its creation.

The original ordinance was written by the progressive-Left group Chispa (although it was somewhat watered down by the council).

While presenting itself as a grass-roots political home for “young Latinx,” Chispa is a project of San Francisco-based Tides Advocacy, another left-wing funder that commands tens of millions of dollars.

The narrative promulgated by Chispa and its political allies, and widely repeated in the media, was that Santa Ana residents had been demanding an oversight commission for sixty years.

According the ChispaOC policy and political director Bulmaro Vicente, it sprouted from his paid Soros Justice Fellowship in 2019 through the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundation.

Posting on Twitter last month, Vicente wrote:

“In 2019 I received a Soros Justice Fellowship for my proposal on police oversight and accountability in Santa Ana. Last fall, my proposal became a reality when the City of Santa Ana passed its historic Police Oversight Commission, a 57 year old demand.”

“I’m now the Policy and Political Director for @ChispaOC, who hosted me for my fellowship. I still can’t believe how much we’ve grown the past few years, and all the wins we’ve accomplished. I’m excited to continue winning for our community.”

Vicente’s and Chispa’s ideas for a police oversight commission went significantly beyond what the council eventually adopted.

For example, Chispa demanded that virtually anyone with even a tangential relationship with law enforcement by barred from serving on the police oversight commission. Not only did the left-wing group want current and former peace officers disqualified from serving on the commission but also their immediate family members or “registered domestic partners.”

While working to exclude family members of police officers, Chispa lobbied for illegal immigrants and convicted criminals to be eligible to serve.

Chispa and its political allies were successful in persuading the council to give the commission investigatory powers beyond what was originally proposed, although short of what Chispa and other social justice groups demanded.

Chispa’s hostile view of law enforcement is shared by its political allies. During the October 18, 2022 Santa Ana City Council meeting on the oversight commission, OCCORD staffer Fernando Delgado claimed city residents see the Santa Ana police as “an occupying force there to surveil, harass and punish them and their neighbors.”

The Open Society Foundation (OSF) has funded more than 400 Soros Justice Fellowships during the past quarter century. Fellows are funded between $100,000 and $140,000 over 18 months, and have access to training, networking, and professional support from OSF.

The OSF website describes their purpose in the anodyne phraseology of the Left: funding activists to “undertake projects that advance reform, spur debate, and catalyze change” in the “U.S. criminal justice system.”

In reality, the work of Soros Justice Fellows is largely aimed at the more concrete goal of undermining law enforcement.

For example, current Soros Justice Fellow Arti Walker-Peddakotla is being funded to “create tools through an abolitionist framework that work to defund the police and reinvest funds back into the community.”

Fellow Christina Hollenback will work on “investment vehicles for capital investors to invest in community-controlled public safety and vital infrastructure and stop prison financing.” “Community-controlled public safety” is euphemism for defunding the police.

Other 2022 fellows are focusing on stopping police activities designed to curb homelessness; opposing the “school-to-prison pipeline;” ensuring convicted felons can vote from prison; “empowering” those serving time in the Tarheel State’s correctional facilities to “dismantle racism in North Carolina’s criminal justice system,” and underwriting “abolitionist organizing.”

In the instance of Vicente from Chispa, his fellowship funding was awarded to “develop mechanisms to hold the Santa Ana (California) Police Department accountable for police misconduct and deadly use of force.”

In other words, the Soros-funded Open Society Foundations financed the political ground game to lobby the Santa Ana City Council for the creation of an oversight commission with a distinct and deliberate anti-law enforcement tilt.

Although groups such as Chispa regularly claim to speak in the name of Santa Ana “communities,” critics of their efforts to handcuff public safety efforts in the city say the reality is they’re are ideological activists funded by outside organizations and are unrepresentative of how normal residents feel about policing.

That critical-funding for the police oversight campaign came from a giant progressive funder with hundreds of millions of dollars at its disposal lends credence to those criticisms.


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