This Wisconsin Dem Wants To Distance Himself From 'Defund the Police.' Two of His Biggest Donors Bankrolled Campaign To Remove Law Enforcement From Schools.

Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Mandela Barnes / Getty Images
July 25, 2022

Two of Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Mandela Barnes's biggest donors are major funders of the "defund the police" movement and bankrolled a successful campaign to remove law enforcement from schools in crime-plagued Oakland, California.

Barnes's leadership committee—a political fundraising committee that candidates often use for personal expenses unconnected to their campaigns—raked in 13 percent of its donations this year from millionaire real estate developer Wayne Jordan and his wife, Quinn Delaney, according to Federal Election Commission records.

The couple is heavily involved in left-wing and anti-police activism through their charity, the Akonadi Foundation.

The funding could complicate Barnes's attempts to distance himself from the increasingly unpopular "defund the police" movement. Barnes, who serves as Wisconsin's lieutenant governor, previously partnered with anti-cop groups, sponsored a bill to end cash bail, and took $28,000 in campaign donations from an organization that supports defunding police, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

But Barnes's campaign told the Free Beacon in February that he "does not support defunding the police."

Jordan and Delaney, who contributed $10,000 in May to Barnes's leadership committee Leading the PAC and $5,800 to his campaign, are prominent in the progressive activist world.

The couple founded an Oakland-based nonprofit group, the Akonadi Foundation, that in 2020 pledged $12.5 million to fight to "fix school discipline," remove police from schools, and close juvenile detention centers. In June 2020, the Oakland Unified School District board voted to dismantle the school system's police department—and even temporarily shut down a popular police volunteer mentorship program for students—because it claimed the presence of officers was "fundamentally undermining the economic and public health of the Black community by restricting access and opportunity."

The Akonadi Foundation went even further than objecting to law enforcement in schools, arguing that police departments should be defunded entirely.

"To address police violence instead of reforming we need to defund police & invest in non-police solutions," said the Akonadi Foundation in a June 4, 2020, Twitter post, adding in another post that "cities across the U.S. need to defund the police and invest in communities of color."

The decision to remove police security from schools was one of several anti-law enforcement initiatives adopted in Oakland and neighboring areas that preceded a massive crime spike in the city.

The city recorded over 130 homicides last year, the highest since 2006, and residents have decried a sharp increase in youth crimes, with kids as young as 11 committing car jackings and robberies, according to reports. In May, officials reportedly recovered 15 pounds of fentanyl and over $100,000 from drug traffickers operating out of a school parking lot in Oakland.