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Billionaire George Soros donates $500k against Austin's Prop A

Billionaire George Soros has entered as an out-of-state influence on Austin politics with a $500k donation to oppose Save Austin Now's Prop A. (Niccolò Caranti)

Billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros was the latest to enter Austin's policing politics on Saturday after donating $500,000 to a political action committee that opposes Prop A.

Soros, who has spent 64% of his fortune on philanthropic interests, often supports progressive policies through sizable donations. The PAC, which is fighting nonprofit Save Austin Now's proposition to increase police staffing to two officers per 1,000 residents , is just the latest of his ventures.

Prop A will be voted on by Austin residents come Nov. 2. If implemented, the measure will implement minimum police staffing, add 40 hours of police training and add merits for honorable contact among other amenities.

Proponents say the amendment will help increase Austin's safety following an uptick in gun violence and crime in the city and nationwide. Meanwhile, opponents deem the increase in funding an unnecessary measure that will take from other areas of the city budget.

The anti-Prop A PAC donation is the latest in Soros' contributions to issues surrounding the criminal justice system. In 2020, the Soros-founded group Open Society Foundations donated $220 million to Black-led racial justice groups in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, and Soros himself spent another $28 million supporting Democratic political groups in that election year.

The Soros name has made it into Austin's political scene before; in 2020, his funds helped Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza win over incumbent Margaret Moore, while his son Jonathan Soros donated $25,000 to a PAC that was unsuccessful in shifting Austin's governmental structure, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

With $16.8 billion in donations in his lifetime, Soros was dubbed one of the world's most generous givers by Forbes—but his focus on politics and Democratic-led organizations has been met with criticism and conspiracy theories in some Republican circles.

Save Austin Now co-founder Matt Mackowiak and Save Austin Now spoke on the "national left-wing" interest on Twitter as the group also requested donations on Oct. 1.

Save Austin Now raised a near-unprecedented $1.9 million in May 2020 in support of a homeless camping ban in the city. The measure was successful, with the city's most visible homeless camping site cleared last week.

But the group's policies have never been without controversy. Most recently, new Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said that the group's policy of two officers per 1,000 residents was "based on older methodologies." The Austin Fire Department's labor union has also pushed against the measure due to a belief that their funding will be cut, with the group voting to spend $15,000 to oppose Prop A.

Prop A would cost between $271.5 million and $598.8 million to implement, according to the city (which it got stated on the ballot). Between 403 and 885 officers would need to be staffed to reach the desired rate of 2.1 to 2.5 officers per 1,000 residents.

Registering to vote for the Nov. 2 election ends Monday, Oct 4. Early voting runs from Oct. 18 to Oct. 29, and election day comes Tuesday, Nov. 2.


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