All Politics is Local - Liberal Resistance

All Politics is Local

William B. Turner

Most district attorneys in the United States are elected. They are local prosecutors, responsible for the daily business of deciding whom to charge and with what in ordinary criminal matters. Electing them is a mixed bag, as it always is. That can make them highly responsive to their constituents, as they mostly should be, within the bounds of the law and the ethical requirements for attorney conduct.

But it also means that they have to operate according to the often slightly grotesque rules of elections as we practice them in the United States.

A particularly nasty example has shown up recently. The East Bay Times has reported that the Alameda County district attorney received a donation of $10,000 from the local police union as she was investigating allegations of criminal conduct by three police officers who killed two citizens.

To no one’s surprise, she chose not to prosecute any of the officers.

Police as individuals have the same right as anyone else to participate in politics. Now that this district attorney is again running to keep her seat, an opponent has said that her acceptance of the donation from the police union was improper.

It certainly looks like an egregious, galloping conflict of interest for a prosecutor to accept political donations from a group that represents persons she is investigating.  This is an interesting illustration of the point that, while most unions are useful and necessary for helping workers, police unions tend to do more harm than good.

Pay attention to local elections. These officials are more likely to have a direct impact on your life than the president or anyone else who serves in Washington, D.C.