George Soros contributes $500,000 to defeat police funding initiative in Austin

(AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

For the second time in recent months, billionaire socialist George Soros contributed money to influence Austin politics. He is contributing big bucks to defeat Proposition A which, among other things, will fund the hiring of more police officers in the city. Proposition A would establish a minimum staffing level for the Austin Police Department of 2 officers per 1,000.

Austin is experiencing an increase in attrition in police ranks which is now 15 to 20 departures per month this year. Austin is the state capitol and a university town, too, so a fully staffed police department is a necessity for the safety and protection of those living and visiting the city. The financial support from Soros and from another PAC in Washington that day provided a boost for those who are against hiring more police officers.

According to finance records published Friday, George Soros transferred the $500,000 to Equity PAC on Monday through his Open Society Policy Center in Washington. That same day, Equity PAC accepted a donation for $200,000 from another reform-minded organization in Washington, the Fairness Project.

Both donations were the product of relationships cultivated by local activist groups, according to Laura Hernandez, the campaign manager for No Way On Prop A — the campaign associated with Equity PAC,

“This really allows us to talk to voters about the implications and about how important it is that we defeat this measure,” Hernandez said. “We’re thankful for the support.”

Neither donation will be included in the PAC’s full campaign report because they were made after the deadline. That report is expected to be available Monday.

It’s probably just a coincidence that $700,000 in contributions will not show up on current PAC financial reports, right? There are no coincidences in politics. There is a month left before the election in Austin. Soros and the Fairness Project swooping in in the last weeks is intentional and means that the final push is on. In response, Save Austin Now — the PAC that got the police staffing measure on the ballot — made its own plea for donations. It has been successful in past fundraising, raising a near-record for a citywide election in May on a ban against homeless campers. Its fundraising efforts have only been outperformed by a campaign funded exclusively by Uber and Lyft in 2016. Co-founder Matt Mackowiak tweeted a plea for financial contributions.

In a tweet with a link to donate, Mackowiak wrote: “National left wing interests are trying to destroy public safety in Austin. Help us ensure adequate police staffing, increase community policing, double police training and enact sensible police reforms.”

Other outside financial contributions are expected to come in opposition to Proposition A. Laura Hernandez, the campaign manager for No Way On Prop A, the campaign associated with Equity PAC, is pleased with the windfall. “This really allows us to talk to voters about the implications and about how important it is that we defeat this measure,” Hernandez said. “We’re thankful for the support.”

If Proposition A passes, the city would be required to employ two officers per 1,000 residents. A second provision would mandate that 35% of an officer’s shift be spent on community engagement time, not responding to calls. City staffers said that more than two officers per 1,000 are needed. A better ratio is 2.1 per 1,000 to 2.5 per 1,000 residents. At the current rate of retaining officers, there will be a need to hire between 403 to 885 additional officers in the next five years. That will cost $271.5M to $598.8M.

In order to fund additional police officers, funding in other departments could be cut. Last week Austin Fire Department labor union voted to oppose Proposition A out of concern that its funding will be cut. The union voted to spend $15,000 to defeat it.

Save Austin Now promises to ramp up its efforts now that outside money is coming in to influence Austin politics. The gloves are coming off. Mackowiak, chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, posted an open letter to firefighters to encourage them to stand united with the police department. After holding back from calling attention to the fact that Austin Fire Association has become aligned with Democratic Socialists of Austin, Save Austin Now will proceed more aggressively in calling that alliance out.

AFA leadership has been professionally and politically aligned with Democratic Socialists of Austin (DSA) and that fact can no longer be ignored — We have chosen not to beat this drum for months, but facts must be shared and aired as this partnership (at least partially) explains AFA leadership’s current motivations. The ‘No on Prop B’ effort was housed in AFA’s building, with Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Greg Casar showing up to support that ‘No on Prop B’ campaign, where Collective Campaigns was housed until two months ago. Collective Campaigns is the field effort arm of DSA, which is Casar’s political army. Equity PAC, which is leading the effort to defeat Prop A, listed AFA’s building as its office address on its campaign filing forms. To our knowledge, that has not been updated despite Bob Nicks pledging it would be done weeks or even months ago. This kind of filing change would take less than five minutes.

AFA originally promised to stay out of the Prop A fight but is now weighing in. Save Austin Now, arguing that funding can be done without sacrificing the Austin Fire Department, pledged to support the firefighters if they come up against a proposition against their funding as the police department is now. If Prop A succeeds, it will be the second rebuke to far-left politics in Austin over the course of six months. Keep Austin Weird is its trademark slogan. Everyone should want to keep Austin safe, too.

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