Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Does billionaire George Soros favor a candidate for DA in Philly?

Has billionaire philanthropist George Soros chosen a candidate to support in the race to become the next Philadelphia district attorney?

If he has, Larry Krasner won't say.

Soros has been sinking serious money into races for district attorney and sheriff around the country for more than a year.

Daniel Conner, a local criminal defense attorney, said he met in Philadelphia in December with Whitney Tymas, chairwoman and treasurer of Safety and Justice, a political action committee funded by Soros that has made large independent expenditures in other states.

Conner said they discussed a potential candidacy but Krasner will now get that support.

"I think Larry's chances of winning have increased substantially," Conner said.

Krasner, a civil rights attorney who entered the Democratic primary election last week, said he has "been interviewed by a ton of local and also national progressive groups."

"No one has said, 'I'm from George Soros,'" said Krasner, who refused to name the groups that have contacted him. "We are at the very beginning of a long campaign. I don't want to give any of the candidates a road map."

Krasner said "no comment" when asked if he had met with Tymas.

Tymas and representatives from Soros' Open Society Foundations did not respond Monday to requests for comment.

Still, Krasner's campaign seems to share similar ideas with Safety and Justice PAC.

His new campaign website includes the headline "Justice Makes Us Safer."  A news release Krasner issued Friday when District Attorney Seth Williams announced that he would not seek a third term said Krasner's campaign platform "is aimed at achieving safety through justice."

Keir Bradford-Grey, head of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, told Philadelphia Magazine last month that she had been approached by representatives for Soros but decided against entering the race.

Krasner may have a sound legal reason for keeping his distance from Soros.

A 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allows independent expenditure groups to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money outside the city's campaign finance limits if they do not coordinate efforts with candidates or campaigns.

Independent expenditure groups spent more in the 2015 primary election for mayor than the actual candidates.

The city's current campaign finance limits -- $3,000 for individuals and $11,900 for political action committees -- were doubled in the race for district attorney on Jan. 9 when another Democratic candidate, Michael Untermeyer, contributed more than $250,000 to his own campaign.

Soros in 2016 gave $530,000 to the federal independent expenditure Safety and Justice PAC and an additional $6,878,600 to the group's nonprofit arm. Safety and Justice also formed state-based PACs where Soros made contributions.

Along with Untermeyer, the other three candidates in the Democratic primary so far are former city Managing Director Rich Negrin, former local and federal prosecutor Joe Khan, and former Municipal Court Judge Teresa Carr Deni.

More may be joining the fray.

Tariq El-Shabazz resigned Monday as Williams' first assistant district attorney, just three days after his boss announced he would not seek re-election and publicly apologized for the ethical and financial missteps that have plagued his tenure in office.

El-Shabazz, who later said he was considering entering the race, made no mention of his boss' recent problems or the ongoing federal investigation into Williams' personal and political spending in an email he wrote announcing his resignation to his colleagues.

"I thank you for the many experiences we have shared and lessons that you have taught me," he wrote. "You have contributed to my growth as a man, attorney and public servant."

Kevin Harden Jr., a former assistant district attorney now in private practice, and State Rep. Joanna McClinton have also said they are exploring options for the race.