George Soros, the leftwing billionaire and Democratic Party mega-donor, has not been shy about getting involved in local politics this year, bankrolling attempts to remove elected law enforcement officials who oppose police reform. Politico reported on Friday that he’s making a $2 million contribution to the campaign against Joe Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff who has gained national attention for his anti-immigrant policies.
“We made a major investment in the effort to defeat Joe Arpaio for two reasons,” Soros spokesman Michael Vachon told Politico. “First, Joe Arpaio has been a stain on the justice system in Arizona for more than two decades, violating civil rights and abusing his office. Second, his influence on the national conversation about immigration has been poisonous.”
Arpaio, who runs law enforcement in Maricopa County, which includes the Pheonix metro area, has been a liberal bête-noire for almost a decade. Arpaio has been one of the leading advocates of harsh detention for undocumented immigrants, locking them up in a “tent city” where the temperature climbs to over 100 degrees in the summer. He also pushed a controversial law in Arizona known as SB 1070, which requires police to check drivers’ immigration status during routine traffic stops and has been criticized on racial profiling grounds.
He has also entertained a longstanding alliance with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Back in 2011, the two both emerged as prominent “birthers,” insinuating that President Barack Obama was not a natural-born citizen — a charge that many viewed as racist. Arpaio endorsed Trump during the primary season, cheering his call to build a wall on the Mexican border and deport undocumented immigrants.
Polls have shown Arpaio, who has been sheriff for more than two decades, in a tight content with Democratic challenger Paul Penzone, who is depending on Hispanic votes to power him to a win. He has the assistance of the Soros-backed Super PAC Maricopa Strong, which has received several contributions in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from other liberal mega-donors.
Meanwhile, Arpaio’s campaign has described Soros, the target of many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, as “a far-left globalist” who “advocates for unrestricted immigration and refugee relocations both here and abroad” and “is trying to buy a Sheriff’s Office here in Maricopa County.”
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.