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While billionaires like George Soros have garnered attention for funding criminal justice reform, a donor with deep pockets has remained relatively obscure despite dropping huge sums into the arena.
Texan billionaire John Arnold, a former Enron executive and hedge fund manager, has quietly poured more than $45 million into New York groups dealing with criminal justice issues in recent years, a Fox News Digital review of found grants shows.
From Arnold Ventures, a limited liability company, the Democratic donor has pushed money to left-wing organizations and universities for studies, prosecutors and the setting up of groups and policy hubs. In 2019, Arnold and his wife, Laura, spent nearly $40 million on initiatives that include bail reform.
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Millions of their dollars have flowed to organizations in New York that supported former government leader Andrew Cuomo’s controversial 2019 bail reform bill. Critics say the reform is contributing to the rising crime rate in areas like New York City as repeat offenders fail to bail and are released back onto the streets, and some Arnold-funded groups have come to her defense.
A spokesman for Arnold Ventures told Fox News Digital that the group was not advocating bail reform in New York and that the bail-related financial support came after legislation was passed to better understand whether the policy is working.
“John Arnold’s millions have supported many leftist causes, but none as dangerous as the wakeful justice movement that has decimated New York,” Scott Walter, president of the conservative nonprofit Capital Research Center, told Fox News Digital.
“The groups Arnold finances are venting utopian sky dreams under the guise of progressive reform,” Walter said. “But the victims will not be billionaires like him. They will be disproportionately poor people of color.”
According to a search of Arnold Venture’s grant database, the group has paid out more than $13 million since 2016 for criminal justice initiatives to the Vera Institute of Justice, a progressive nonprofit working to end mass incarceration.
The Vera Institute backed Cuomo’s 2019 bail reform bill, dropping tens of thousands into criminal justice lobby in the first half of that year, revelations show. They later highlighted the efforts in their year-end report.
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“In upstate New York, Vera worked with attorneys to increase public pressure and momentum for change, and worked with government leaders to demonstrate that bail reform is not only possible, but achievable,” their annual report said. 2019.
“This approach was pivotal to an astonishing result: The New York State Legislature passed some of the most sweeping criminal justice reforms in five decades — a move that will dramatically overhaul the state’s bail system and have the potential to drive massive end incarceration at the local level.”
Arnold Ventures sent more than $2 million to the Innocence Project, which defended the reform bill when it came under fire from critics this year, saying rolling back would be a “bad idea.” At least $1.6 million more went to the Brennan Center for Justice, which has also defended the law.
“There is no clear link between the recent rise in crime and the Bail Reform Act enacted in 2019, and the data does not currently support further revisions to the legislation,” the Brennan Center wrote in March.
The billionaire’s group also donated millions to other New York-based organizations for criminal justice efforts, including the New York Criminal Justice Agency, Research Foundation of the City University of New York, Fund for the City of New York, New York University, Measures for Justice Institute and Trustees of Columbia University in New York City, their database shows.
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Jeremy Travis, the executive vice president of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures, expressed his support for the Empire State’s efforts to reform bail before it was passed, but stressed that public safety must be balanced.
“Municipalities want more people to be released before they are released, and at the same time they value public safety,” Travis wrote in a March 2019 op-ed. “A fair system of preliminary investigations would balance these needs.”
In the piece, Travis called for all suspects to be released pending trial unless they are “exceptionally high risk.”
Arnold Ventures spokesperson said they provided $5.5 million after approval to a handful of organizations, including the Vera Institute, to gather current information for agencies, help local jurisdictions understand how the new pre-trial system functions. and an objective assessment of the bail policy.
Meanwhile, around the time of Travis’ op-ed, Forbes reported that the Arnold was planning to hand out $39 million to “reform America’s broken bail system,” which was moving toward bail reform and other legal initiatives.
“In most places, the amount of money you have in most places determines whether or not you go free. [on bail]James Cadogan, Arnold Ventures’ then vice president of criminal justice, told the publication. “That’s fundamentally unfair. Its impact is disproportionately heavy on the poor and people of color.”
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One of those grants went to New York University’s Public Safety Lab to “study the effects of bail, pre-trial detention and counsel practices on the outcomes of suspects in 1,028 counties,” Forbes wrote.
And as crime skyrockets in New York City, critics have turned it on the law.
In August, New York Mayor Eric Adams and police chiefs called the state’s reform laws “insane” and “dangerous” amid a surge in arrests and a series of high-profile attacks on law enforcement and the public.
“This is about repeat offenders making New Yorkers suffer unnecessarily,” New York Police Department commissioner Keechant Sewell said at a news conference with Adams. “Every day, when hard-working New Yorkers start their day or night from work or school, or just enjoy of what this city has to offer, repeat criminals are planning or taking the opportunity to commit their next theft, robbery, burglary or other crime.”
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“Their efforts are increasingly aided by the fact that after the NYPD arrests them, the criminal justice system does not hold them properly accountable for their actions,” Sewell said. “These offenders face little or no consequences despite committing crime after crime.”
Mayor Adams added that this was not “a fight against those who saw the need to reform a criminal justice system”, but a “against those who exploit these reforms”.
Fox News’ Stephanie Pagones reported.