Reuters: Who funds your local sheriff? Report raises new campaign finance questions
Keshia Morris Desir, mass incarceration project manager at Common Cause, told me that The Paid Jailer report, which was released in January, “tries to shine a light on a blind spot in efforts toward criminal justice reform.”
“We’re really trying to call attention to this issue because we usually only think about the police department when we talk about law enforcement reform, even though sheriffs are actually elected officials,” Desir said.
Desir, at Common Cause, told me campaign finance reporting systems across the country are so varied and poorly run that some sheriffs’ offices responded to inquiries with handwritten lists of their political contributions. The Common Cause report includes a series of important policy recommendations, including restricting contributions to campaigns from individuals and entities that conduct or seek business with the state or city.
“The reason we studied this is that sheriffs control really large swaths of the mass incarceration system, including in immigration, and they make major decisions about the health and safety of millions of incarcerated people,” Desir said. “Bringing attention to their offices presents an opportunity to strengthen disclosure laws and make other reforms to improve campaign financing” for these powerful, publicly elected officials.