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Why A Billionaire Is Interested In The Jeffco DA's Race

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)- The race for Jefferson County District Attorney pits Republican incumbent Pete Weir against Democrat Jake Lilly. But there is another force in the race. Direct mail ads and commercials are coming to voters labeled from "Colorado Safety and Justice."

The ads attack Weir, the current DA. One radio commercial features an announcer stating, "This election say no to Pete Weir. We aren't safe with Weir as DA. Paid for by Colorado Safety and Justice, Whitney Tymas registered agent."

Jeffco DA Pete Weir (credit: CBS)

Weir says outside influences are being used to try to oust him, "We have a billionaire and a Washington DC power attorney that has projected itself into a local race here in Jefferson County."

What the critical ads do not say is who is behind them. The registered agent for Colorado Safety and Justice Whitney Tymas does not live in Colorado. Election records show $100,000 in monetary donations by George Soros with $39,000 more in other contributions.

(credit: CBS)

Soros is the multi-billionaire who has put his fortune into liberal causes. The ads against Weir are so negative his Democratic opponent Jake Lilly wants to distance himself from them.

Lilly told CBS4, "I don't approve of the tone. I don't approve of the negativity. I think people should be focusing on things that are important."

Jake Lilly (credit: CBS)

Weir calls the Soros ads absurd, "They are a slim resemblance to the truth, negative attack ads that really do not reflect the nature of this office."

"It's a matter of trying to upset voters and it does not reflect the type of policies he would want if there were a new DA," said Weir.

George Soros (credit: CBS)

Weir was first elected DA in 2012. He has served previously as a district court judge and as executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety.

Lilly is a former military prosecutor and is currently in private practice as a defense attorney.

The Jefferson County District Attorney race is one of several around the country that Soros has poured money into to try to influence the criminal justice system. Among the items on Soros' agenda is getting rid of racial disparity in sentencing and getting drug offenders into diversion programs rather than jail.

Weir responded, "As far as sentencing, I have been both a judge who has imposed sentences and a prosecutor who has recommended sentences. Racial disparity cannot be tolerated and each sentence must be predicated on the circumstances of the crime committed and the unique history of each defendant. I was a leader in reforming our drug laws. In 2013 our drug laws were revised to distinguish between individuals with addictions and those criminals, the manufacturers, dealers and distributors who prey upon those with addiction."

The Soros Foundation and Colorado Safety and Justice have not yet responded to requests for comment from CBS4 News.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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