California Must Hold Prosecutors’ Group Accountable

California Must Hold Prosecutors’ Group Accountable


The Point

In the wake of The San Francisco Chronicle’s revelation that the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) has misspent $2.88 million in restricted funds, State Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager has called for investigations and hearings into the matter. Other officials must join this demand for accountability. 

California needs to hold the CDAA accountable for misappropriating almost $3 million intended for public service programs:

  • Kamlager is the first known California lawmaker to demand action in response to this apparent violation of public trust and misconduct by the California District Attorneys Association, calling on her colleagues “to ensure the integrity of our criminal legal system and hold a hearing to investigate the misconduct of these elected officials and the misappropriation of public funds.” 
  • The assemblymember is asking Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office for an independent investigation and asking Governor Gavin Newsom to request that the funds be returned to the state. She also addressed the CDAA’s role in state government, asking Newsom to remove the association from a new unemployment insurance fraud task force
  • These are concrete actions California can take to remedy the harm the CDAA has caused. There is no excuse for California’s leaders not to join Kamlager’s demand for accountability. 

The CDAA has long shown it is more concerned with power than public safety:

  • The CDAA should have served the public by using the funds as intended—to aid counties in the prosecution of difficult environmental and worker safety cases. Instead it used the money to pad its dwindling general accounts which, among other purposes, “pay[s] for its lobbying, media, and political campaigning,” promoting the CDAA’s carceral agenda. 
  • The CDAA has a history of rejecting reform and pushing for extreme punishment. Its consistent opposition is at odds with the popularity of reform policies among Californians. Decarceral ballot initiatives have easily passed with a majority of support in California, despite the CDAA’s emphatic pushback. 
  • When voters elect prosecutors who aim to decarcerate and decriminalize, the CDAA uses its resources to publicly undermine and attack the implementation of those campaign promises.
  • The CDAA’s efforts are not unique. Traditionally, DA associations have used their power to thwart efforts to shrink mass incarceration, curtail overcriminalization, and repair past harms imposed by the criminal legal system. Their misplaced allegiance to “tough-on-crime” policies that do nothing to keep communities safe has led some prosecutors to forgo membership in these groups. 

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