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George Santos Benefactor Bankrolled Group Opposing LA’s Progressive Prosecutor

A high-dollar investor in New York who generously supported George Santos’s congressional campaigns and related committees also bankrolled a group in Los Angeles seeking to oust the city’s progressive prosecutor.

Andrew Intrater, a Republican donor based in New York, has given more than $221,000 to George Santos’s congressional campaigns and related groups. In 2020, Santos claimed that Intrater was a client of his. Intrater also put more than half a million dollars into Santos’s previous employer, a company called Harbor City Capital that the Securities and Exchange Commission accused of operating a Ponzi scheme in 2021.

“This is a donor who backed a man who lied about every aspect of his life in breathtaking, unprecedented ways.”

The mendacious New York House member, though, wasn’t Intrater’s only political interest. His focus apparently also includes local politics in California, where he gave $25,000 in seed money to a political action committee opposing Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón.

Gascón, who was elected in 2020 on a criminal justice reform platform that included opposing the death penalty, fended off a second recall attempt in August and is up for reelection in 2024. A group called Cal Justice Committee, formed last year, is working to draft LA County Deputy District Attorney John McKinney, a potential Gascón opponent. Intrater is the group’s first donor.

The interest in the Los Angeles district attorney race puts Intrater at the center of a number of Republican efforts. In addition to his support of Santos, whom he has only recently begun to raise questions about, Intrater was a bit player in the Russiagate probe, thanks to his investment firm’s relationship to a Russian oligarch who is also his cousin, and funds given to Donald Trump’s election and inauguration funds, as well as to Trump’s fixer, lawyer Michael Cohen.

“This is a donor who backed a man who lied about every aspect of his life in breathtaking, unprecedented ways,” said Jessica Brand, a strategist who works with progressive district attorneys across the country, including Gascón’s. “I imagine Angelenos would like to know that McKinney is being drafted by the same man who cares so little about both ethics and the truth.”

Intrater’s investment in fighting LA’s progressive district attorney is part of the GOP’s broader fight against prosecutors like Gascón and his reform-minded peers in cities like San Francisco, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. (Intrater declined to comment for this story.)

The Republican-led fight against prosecutors elected on criminal justice reform platforms is inextricable from the party’s broader anti-democratic aims. Conservative Republicans and Democrats banded together to push a successful recall of reform-minded District Attorney Chesa Boudin in San Francisco last year, but similar attempts to impeach Larry Krasner, the Philadelphia district attorney, have so far failed.

Nationally, Republicans have made targeting progressive prosecutors a significant part of their plan for the immediate future, including proposals to withhold federal funding from states home to district attorneys who refuse cash bail or decline to prosecute certain offenses.

In Los Angeles, Gascón has survived two failed recall attempts supported by police unions and deputy district attorneys in his own office, including McKinney, the deputy district attorney Cal Justice Committee is backing to run against Gascón next year.

McKinney has not announced a campaign or filed to run for office but has been a vocal critic of Gascón. In July, McKinney said he would run against Gascón if the recall effort failed.

In an interview with The Intercept, McKinney distanced himself from the disgraced Santos and denied having any knowledge of Cal Justice’s donors.

“I don’t know anything about Cal Justice’s donors. I certainly don’t want to be associated with anything that would cast a shadow on my effort to run for DA.”

“Based on what I’ve read and seen in the media, what is going on with George Santos is utterly despicable,” McKinney said. “I don’t know anything about Cal Justice’s donors. I certainly don’t want to be associated with anything that would cast a shadow on my effort to run for DA. I expect that once my campaign gets going, we will steer clear of anyone or any organization that is controversial or associated with controversy.”

In September, McKinney was transferred to a different division in Gascón’s office in a move that he claimed was retaliation for criticizing the district attorney. Jason Lustig, who worked under Gascón as assistant head deputy for Long Beach and was also transferred to another division, chairs the Cal Justice Committee. In response, both McKinney and Lustig lambasted Gascón on Fox News. (At the time, Gascón’s office said the transfers were routine and that no employees were demoted.)

McKinney said he was familiar with Cal Justice and got to know Lustig during the recall effort. He said Lustig and others in the DA’s office encouraged him to run if the recall failed. McKinney said he was told about the committee’s website, “Draft McKinney for LA DA,” and visited it to “see what it was all about” but had no involvement with the group.

According to the website, Lustig “has been an active voice opposing District Attorney George Gascón’s policies, including appearing in the media and bringing key coalition members together.” (Cal Justice Committee did not provide comment by the time of publication.)

Though McKinney has not filed to run for office, the Draft McKinney website lists numerous endorsements, including several LA County deputy district attorneys, a police chief in Grover Beach, a retired police chief, two retired Los Angeles Police Department detectives, and a retired member of the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

McKinney is the founder of an organization called Proportional Justice, which advocates for “severe consequences” for major violent offenses, the website says: “Blanket, one-size-fits-all policies are lazy and often lead to disproportional consequences that can be either too harsh or too lenient on a particular offender.”

The post George Santos Benefactor Bankrolled Group Opposing LA’s Progressive Prosecutor appeared first on The Intercept.