By Jérémie Kimelman | Cal Matters
Amid growing concerns about crime and recent criminal justice reforms, California law enforcement groups are spending big this year in several high profile races.
So far in the 2022 election cycle, these groups have contributed more than $1 million to campaigns for the state Legislature and several statewide offices, slightly less than the $1.2 million paid out at the same time in 2020 and far more than the roughly $305,000 in 2018, according to a CalMatters analysis.
Since Monday, nearly $1 of every $6 donated by law enforcement groups has gone to the Attorney General’s haul, particularly Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert. The $176,900 in cop cash given to Schubert is about 10% of his total contributions.
She’s a Republican-turned-independent who is the preferred choice of those groups seeking to unseat Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021.
Schubert is backed by one of the biggest contributors: the Peace Officers Research Association of California, an advocacy and lobbying group. The organization gave Schubert $16,200, the maximum allowed for the June 7 primary, while none of his opponents have reported law enforcement contributions so far — not Bonta, who has raised a total of $6.4 million so far, and not Republican challengers Nathan Hochman or Eric. Early.
It’s the first time since at least 1999 that the organization has not contributed to the incumbent’s coffers in the race for attorney general, according to the secretary of state’s records. The Peace Officers Research Association sees things differently. Association president Brian Marvel told CalMatters that “PORAC does not consider there to be an incumbent in this race” as Bonta was nominated and not elected.
The other main sources of funding for law enforcement are unions: the California Association of Highway Patrolmen and the LA Police Protective League. The CHP union has donated $112,800 in 38 races so far, including $11,000 for Schubert’s campaign, its first donation to a candidate for attorney general since 2007. The protective league has donated $146,600 in 25 races so far, but nothing at Schubert.
Because the Attorney General is the highest law enforcement official in the state, agencies can be directly impacted by decisions, including investigations of police officers.
Bonta and Schubert have different priorities for what they would do in office. Although both of their campaigns deal with gun violence and prosecuting polluters, Bonta’s website highlights “combating hate and protecting civil rights” and Schubert’s pledges to “aggressively [prosecute] violent criminals. Both candidates support the law Bonta drafted when he was a lawmaker that directs the attorney general’s office to investigate when law enforcement officers kill unarmed civilians.
The attorney general’s race isn’t the only statewide election where law enforcement is giving away money. For the primary, they are limited to giving out $16,200 for statewide offices other than governor ($32,400), and $9,700 in legislative races.
Fiona Ma, who is running for re-election as state treasurer, received the second-highest number so far. Why do law enforcement officers care who the treasurer is? The Treasurer can affect their pensions as a member of the California Public Employees Retirement System Board of Directors.
Ma’s campaign raised $55,200, including $47,100 from two of the three major police groups: the Peace Officers Research Association and the Los Angeles Police Protective League. Ma’s relationship with law enforcement unions is not new. According to campaign finance watchdog OpenSecrets, the Peace Officers Research Association is Ma’s fifth-largest contributor during his career.
So far in the 2022 election, law enforcement has also placed bets in 42 of 80 Assembly races and seven of 20 state Senate campaigns, after redistricting drastically changed many legislative districts and after a wave of resignations and decisions not to seek re-election created open seats.
Assemblyman Phillip Chen, a Republican running in the 59th District near Los Angeles, has raised the most law enforcement of any legislative candidate, $47,400 so far. even if he has no opposition.
While accepting cop money can be a contentious issue within the California Democratic Party, some Democratic candidates for Assembly are not shy. Assemblyman James Ramos of Rancho Cucamonga took $37,200, while his opponent in the 45th District, Republican Joe Martinez, received no police money.
Assemblyman Cottie Petrie-Norris of Laguna Beach raised $27,100, while her opponent, Republican Assemblyman Steven Choi, took none as they compete to represent the new 73rd district centered around Irvine. And Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low of Cupertino received $26,900, while his 26th District opponents, Democrat Long Jiao and Republican Tim Gorsulowsky, reported no contributions to law enforcement.
In the state Senate, the top four recipients of law enforcement money are also Democrats, including three sitting senators: Tom Umberg of Garden Grove who received $26,200, Bob Archuleta of Pico Rivera received $22,700 and Anna Caballero de Salinas accepted $16,700.
Democrat Angelique Ashby, a Sacramento City Councilwoman, is one of the few top recipients of law enforcement money who isn’t already in the Legislature. She took $14,900 while Democrat Dave Jones — her most prominent opponent, a former lawmaker and state insurance commissioner — reported no law enforcement contributions. The fifth-biggest recipient to date is Republican Sen. Brian Jones of El Cajon, who raised $6,000 in his campaign for the 40th District, while his opponents reported no police donations.
Law enforcement unions invested about $2.7 million during the 2019-20 election cycle and more than $2.1 million in 2021 when Newsom faced a recall. With $1 million already given out more than two months before the June 7 primary, it’s possible law enforcement will be even more generous in 2022.