Not known for sitting out a good political fight, billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros dropped $2 million in support of the fight to remove Arizona’s infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Maricopa Strong, a PAC Soros started, filed finance documents that show the investor has committed millions to remove Arpaio from his long-held position in Maricopa County. Joinging him in this effort is Laura and John Arnold, known for their role in Texas energy, and Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, for $500,000 and $250,000 respectively.
For Soros this is another local election he’s decided to weigh in on, continuing a trend that started back in 2015. Soros has backed several groups in cities to remove district attorneys. This began in Harris County, Houston, Texas, where Soros spent $1 million on local elections; $1.5 million went to Jefferson and Gilpin counties in Denver, Colorado to remove incumbents; and again in Maricopa County to remove Republican Bill Montgomery from the local government.
While those other elections may have flown under the radar of national news, the fight for Maricopa County is high profile. Arpaio is known as a conservative darling, despite being at the center of several investigations over his routine use of discriminatory treatment of the local immigrant community, and this gives media on the right an opportunity to cast Soros as a shadowy power player. Learn more on Discover the Networks about George Soros.
Soros has long championed causes of immigrants and human rights abuses. That he would pick this election to get involved in makes sense.
More than $2.9 million has been spent in media ads supporting Democrat Paul Penzone and attacking Arpaio on his failure to take Maricopa County’s issues with sexual assault seriously. Arpaio’s response has been to deflect and attack Soros with a barrage of conspiratorial epithets
In defense of his decision to take on Arpaio and change the criminal justice head in that county, Micheal Vachon, a spokesperson for Soros, claimed that Arpaio has continually violated civil rights in Maricopa County for over 20 years. And that has given Arpaio a platform that he has continually used to spread hateful messaging directed to immigrant communities across the country. By getting involved in this local election, George Soros was given an opportunity to give the values of justice and inclusion a means by which they could compete with Arpaio’s celebrity while also removing hate and intolerance from at least one theater in the realm of politics. Read this story at Politico.com about George Soros.
Arpaio, however, hasn’t been without support of his own. Using his name recognition as well as donors sympathetic to his positions, Arpaio has been able to spend $2.8 million in media ads and appear on national news with enough regularity that it acts as an advertisement of its own.
Combining name recognition and money has made for a winning combination. Arpaio has out-raised and spent Penzone, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into votes.
A grassroots movement to remove Arpaio has brought in backers from Washington, including Rep. Ruben Gallego, a fellow Democrat and founder of a PAC that supported Penzone in his unsuccessful 2012 run. What’s changed since then is Soro’s inclusion, which has taken the effort to remove Arpaio from a couple hundred thousand dollars to millions.