PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The race for District Attorney in Washington County and others is usually a boring affair. But for the first time in 20 years there are political fireworks, thanks to an out-of-state group with ties to liberal billionaire George Soros getting involved on behalf of one of the candidates.
For months, Chief Deputy DA Kevin Barton had been running unopposed to replace his retiring boss, Bob Hermann, to take over the DA’s office in Hillsboro. But last month on the day of the filing deadline, little known defense attorney Max Wall threw his name into the race. Rumors swirled that Wall had been recruited by a Soros political operative named Whitney Tymas out of Washington, D.C.
Wall said he talked with Tymas before the decision to run.
“I haven’t been recruited by anybody, I had been thinking about it for 6 months before I finally pulled the trigger,” Wall said.
Soros and Tymas have a history of trying to influence district attorney races in different parts of the country.
Asked about whether Soros was supporting him at the March 19 Washington County Public Affairs Forum, Wall told the crowd, “In terms of the rumors about money and billionaires, I can tell you that I haven’t been promised dollar one by anyone. My two largest contributions so far come from two friends. One from college, one from high school. In the amount of $1,000. I’ve seen and heard some of these rumors and they are not true.”
But campaign finance records with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office now reveal Wall’s campaign had already received $12,400 the day before from the Washington D.C. based, brand new Law & Justice PAC to do polling on Wall’s behalf.
That’s on top of $9,000 for campaign “operational expenses” three days earlier from the same PAC, which is run by Whitney Tymas. Tymas also runs a similarly named group with the same Washington, D.C. address as the Perkins Coie law firm, called the Safety and Justice PAC with the goal to “support candidates for district attorney.”
IRS filings reveal George Soros has donated thousands of dollars to that PAC.
“I have no evidence that he is in any way contributing to my campaign,” Wall tells KOIN 6 News. “This is individuals from around the country. I think my message is attracting support from people not only in my community, but people all over the country that are interested in this issue.”
The Washington County District Attorney race is an example of an ideological battle raging in Oregon and other parts of the country. There is a split between groups who think recent drops in crime rates are due to tough laws that keep dangerous people locked up, versus the camp who believes large prison populations are costing states too much.
“My opponent assured the voters at the Washington County Public Affairs Forum that the rumors of outside money were not true and that he had ‘not been promised Dollar One’ by anyone,” Barton wrote to KOIN 6 News. “But, we know now that when he made that statement, he had already met with Soros attorney Whitney Tymas and with who he called ‘the money people.'”
In the ideological split over criminal justice, Wall is supported by a Portland-based group called the Safety and Justice Action Fund.
“In Oregon and across the country, there are calls for reform around public safety that include addressing high incarceration rates when we could be smarter and safer with greater investments in addiction treatment and mental health services,” Deputy Director Shannon Wight wrote in an email, “With Max Wall running in Washington County, we have an opportunity to elect a district attorney who will make the smart changes that people have been seeking for years.”
Tymas’s campaign filings today for the new Law & Justice PAC do not reveal where the money for Wall came from. The columns for “itemized Contributions and Expenditures” are blank.
According to the Secretary of State campaign finance records, Wall has $47,693 in contributions. $21,400 is from the out of state Law & Justice PAC. He’s received another $6,050 from out of state individuals.
Barton has $104,060 in his political war chest. $4,550 is from out-of-state individuals.
“I think people are leaving out half the story,” Wall said. “Which are Kevin Barton’s contributions which are from people with vested in maintaining the status quo in Washington County which we know needs reform.”
Barton has the support of many in law enforcement, including long time Clatsop County D.A. Josh Marquis.
“Besides the back-room nature of a campaign funded by out of state interests, those interests are intent on reversing voter-passed reforms like Measure 11,” Marquis wrote in an email. “If Soros and his hand-picked candidate had their way we’d empty Oregon’s prisons of virtually all its inmates.”
“A district attorney must be honest and transparent in order to earn the trust of the community and protect the integrity of the justice system,” Barton wrote in an email. “I believe I have the experience, integrity, and the trust of the community to be our next District Attorney.”
The election is May 15.