Reisig Continues to Rack Up Law Enforcement Money

Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig flanked by US Attorney McGregor Scott/ AP Photo

By Robert J. Hansen

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020, a coalition of current and former district attorneys called on the American Bar Association and the California State Bar to pass an ethics rule prohibiting prosecutors from accepting political donations from law enforcement agencies, according to Court House News.

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón said police organizations are very active politically endorsing elected district attorneys and funding their campaigns.

“The influence or appearance of influence based on that money further erodes the moral authority of the entire system,” Gascón said in 2020.

“I think it’s apparent to all of us today that America has a crisis of trust in law enforcement. That is why we’re asking the state bar to take this item up immediately, to cure the conflict,” San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said.

Several district attorneys say they have to remove money from the equation to help build the public’s trust in the judicial system.

“We work very closely with law enforcement and we have to evaluate whether some of those same officers have committed crimes,” Diana Becton, Contra Costa County District Attorney said. “Across California, there are dozens of law enforcement unions, representing rank and file police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and correctional officers. and these unions play a major role in state and even local politics.

“We work day in and day out with them, every day. And so there is a relationship there and there’s no denying there’s not,” Tori Verber Salazar, San Joaquin County District Attorney said. “And that doesn’t impair or impede our ability to be fair and to do that we have to have that distancing and we have to have that disconnect. Their political endorsements are provided only to candidates … whom they believe will advance their interests.”

CalMatters reported yesterday that California’s law enforcement groups have contributed more than $1 million to campaigns this year in several high-profile races for the state Legislature, several statewide offices, and Attorney General.

From the beginning of last year to today, Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig has received $10,000 in campaign donations from several police officer agencies, current and former peace officers, and retired Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto, according to campaign finance documents.

The Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, The Sacramento Police Officer Association, and the West Sacramento Police Officer Association have collectively donated over $5,000 to Reisig’s campaign.

In Reisig’s time as DA, from 2007 to now, his campaigns have received well over $100,000 from various law enforcement agencies.

Solano County Superior Court Judge Tim Kam even donated $250 in 2014, which is prohibited by the California Supreme Court of Judicial Ethics.

And though Reisig’s office has investigated 5 incidents where police killed somebody in his time as DA, 17 other deaths were not, according to the California Department of Justice.

From 2009 to 2020, 22 people have died either in the county jail or in the process of arrest.

Thirteen died while being arrested and the other 9 while in jail and not one police officer or deputy has been charged by the Yolo District Attorney.

The Yolo County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for the majority of the deaths while the rest occurred by the Woodland Police Department, the Davis Police Department, and the West Sacramento Police Department.

All of whom, either individual peace officers or their political agencies, have donated to Reisig’s campaign over the last 15 months.

Three died at the hands of California Highway Patrol officers in Yolo County.

Woodland police officers are currently involved in a civil lawsuit because of the 2017 death of Michael Barrera, a 30-year-old Latino whose last words were the same as George Floyd’s, “I can’t breathe.”

California State Bar Interim Executive Director Donna Hershkowitz said in 2020 that the Bar was “reviewing the request carefully and determining the appropriate next steps.”

However, the California State Bar has not yet prohibited prosecutors from accepting political donations.

About The Author

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Robert is covering the Yolo County DA's race for the Vanguard.

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  1. Keith Olson

    The Vanguard has an article today scrutinizing Reisig campaign donations but this is a conversation that took place about some Rodriguez campaign donations a few days ago where the Executive Editor of the Vanguard wrote this:

    Ron Glick March 28, 2022 at 7:48 am
    “Pedroia said his family are the political donors and he manages the estate which is why his name is on the campaign finance documents.”
    That is a thin veil.

    David Greenwald March 28, 2022 at 9:37 am
    That said, why is he precluded from donating to a candidate for DA? And how does Cynthia taking a donation from him or the Dev family have much relevance to anything in the race?

    1. David Greenwald

      I don’t see the two issues as the same. Law enforcement is an ongoing relationship where the DA has oversight responsibilities. There’s an inherent conflict of interest.

      1. Keith Olson

        So you really don’t think that Cynthia Rodriguez taking those donations have much relevance to anything in the race?  I think others might see that differently.

        1. David Greenwald

          You think taking a small amount of money from someone who believes his brother was wrongly convicted is going to have a huge impact on the race? (Someone even you have questions about the conviction). On the other hand, I think taking tens of thousands from law enforcement will have a huge impact on policies?

        2. Ron Glick

          Its not the money from Dev’s brother that is the problem. Its the money from Brett Pedroia through an estate he administers that is shading Rodriguez. You can argue this all day but elections and voting can often turn on perception instead of reality. And the Pedroia money is a really bad look. She would be wise to disgorge that money and apologize.

          Countering with Reisig takes money from law enforcement is only going to work with a  subset of the electorate. That dog won’t hunt. People expect the cops to support each other. Getting a donation from Ex-Sheriff Ed Prieto is seen as a badge of honor by many in this community across the entire political spectrum.

        3. David Greenwald

          Yeah but to what end?  Pedroia’ s case is long since gone.  At least Dev still has business before Yolo County.  We reached out for a comment from Pedroia, but he didn’t really want to talk and punted on some of it.  But there is really no there, there.  It’s guilt by association where as the police unions are act players in the process.

        4. Ron Glick

          Guilt by association no doubt. But the question remains, will it hurt Rodriguez at the ballot box? I think it will unless she runs away from it as fast as she can.

          As for Pedroia’s case being old. That is true but he made himself an election issue when he wrote the check and it will remain an issue until the end of the campaign. The only remaining question is how Rodriguez responds.

          Dev’s situation is more benign. First it was his brother who made the donation and second Dev has always claimed he was wrongly convicted so its not as clear cut as Pedroia.

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