Bombshell story reveals Will Rollins’ “ties to criminal leniency group”

April 18, 2024

BREAKING: A new story has exposed Will Rollins’ intimate ties to an extreme soft-on-crime group backing his bid for Congress.

Rollins touts this endorsement and recently dined with their board of directors—even though the group “helped usher in some of the most controversial changes to criminal justice laws” and “campaigned aggressively to eliminate cash bail for many types of crimes, legalize prostitution, shorten probation periods for misdemeanors and some felonies, and end qualified immunity for police.”

“George Gascon, Chesa Boudin and Will Rollins—it’s all the same extreme, pro-criminal agenda tearing California communities apart. Riverside County’s Sheriff, District Attorney and police officers endorse Representative Ken Calvert because he stands up to Rollins and his radical buddies to keep families safe.” – NRCC Spokesperson Ben Petersen

In case you missed it…

Calif. Dems Tout Ties to Criminal Leniency Group
Susan Crabtree
April 18, 2023

The mayors of California’s three biggest cities have rankled some progressive activists in recent months by joining a wave of fellow Democrats renouncing once popular initiatives to defund the police, reduce sentencing, and undertake other criminal justice reforms amid deep concerns over public safety. 

Facing a public backlash over rampant thefts and an epidemic of fentanyl deaths related to drug trafficking, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria in recent months have joined the GOP fight to dismantle Proposition 47. That law, approved by voters in 2014, recategorized thefts below $950 from felonies to misdemeanors, and many critics blame it for the spate of smash-and-grab robberies at department and convenience stores across California. 

“We should be locking up criminals, not laundry detergent,” Gloria, who refers to himself as a progressive Democrat, declared in his state-of-the-city address in January. 

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has called for adding hundreds of police officers to the city’s rolls and boosting their pay. 

But Democratic incumbents and candidates in several of the most competitive U.S. House of Representatives races across California – the outcome of which will play a critical role in determining control of the chamber in the next Congress – are either swimming against the tough-on-crime tide or trying to avoid alienating a key ally. 

These Democrats have been touting their close ties to a progressive lobbying powerhouse that helped usher in some of the most controversial changes to criminal justice laws across the state in recent years. 

Equality California began as a Sacramento-based LGBTQ+ advocacy group 20 years ago but has since become a major player on several issues, including its self-proclaimed priority of transforming the Golden State’s criminal justice system. The influential organization, which rakes in millions from Hollywood celebrities and business interests and received a state grant windfall last year, has been instrumental in promoting a reform agenda that many prominent California Democrats are now trying to reverse. 

The group campaigned aggressively to eliminate cash bail for many types of crimes, legalize prostitution, shorten probation periods for misdemeanors and some felonies, and end qualified immunity for police, making it easier for victims of alleged excessive force and other police misconduct to sue officers. The push to lift legal protections for police failed on the federal level but largely succeeded in California when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a Senate bill into law in the fall of 2021. 

In 2022, the group’s PAC also contributed $5,000 to embattled Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, the original author of Proposition 47. Gascon survived a close recall effort in 2022, just two months after San Francisco voters ousted District Attorney Chesa Boudin in a blow to the national movement toward more lenient prosecution given the city’s status as one of the nation’s most liberal enclaves. 

In the middle of the riots after the police-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Equality California was one of several organizations that called for donations to groups on the “frontlines” of the protests, including the Minnesota Freedom Fund. That fund eventually received $35 million in donations during the tumultuous summer of 2020 and used the money to bail out dozens of defendants, including those accused of murder, violent felonies, and sex crimes. 

Like Equality California, the Minnesota Freedom Fund aggressively pushed for defunding the police and ending cash bail for all individuals accused of crimes. 

Under the “issues” section on its website, Equality California lists “criminal justice reform” first among all the issues it works on, including education, faith and religion, gun safety, hate crimes and safety, health care and HIV issues. 

“LGBTQ+ people face disproportionate rates of arrest, conviction, incarceration, and recidivism compared to their non-LGBTQ+ peers,” the website asserts in explaining why the group prioritizes reducing criminal penalties and is pushing for more leniency in other aspects of criminal justice law. 

Seven Democrats in the most competitive House races have touted their Equality California endorsements on social media. They include Adam Gray, Josh Harder, Joe Kerr, David Min, Will Rollins, Rudy Salas, and George Whitesides.

Whitesides (pictured at top), a former aerospace executive challenging GOP Rep. Mike Garcia in a key House battleground north of Los Angeles, has the closest ties to Equality California. He and his wife donated an undisclosed amount to the group in both 2020 and 2021. 

Those donations qualified the Whitesides as Equality California’s “regional influencers” for 2020 and 2021. It’s a title the couple shared with the hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer, record executive David Geffen’s foundation, California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and her husband, as well as Rep. Sara Jacobs (the granddaughter of Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs), and Tom Sandoval, a cast member of the TV reality series “Vanderpump Rules.” (The 2020 and 2021 annual reports do not list an amount associated with the “regional influencers” tier, but the group’s 2019 annual reports notes that a such a designation is earned for contributions of $10,000 to $19,999.)

Whitesides’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment about whether he backs Equality California’s criminal justice priorities. 

In February, Will Rollins, a former federal prosecutor challenging veteran GOP Rep. Ken Calvert in a district stretching from Riverside to Palm Springs, touted his Equality California endorsement on, along with a photo of himself dining with the group’s board of directors. 

“It was great joining @eqca board members of their board of directors lunch,” Rollins tweeted. “I am proud to be endorsed by Equality California in my race for Congress. When I get to D.C., I am going to fight to advance LGBTQ+ rights for all Americans. Together, we will win.” 

The Calvert-Rollins race is a closely fought rematch, with crime taking center stage.


In a local newspaper op-ed, Calvert tried to lump Rollins into the same camp as Gascon and Boudin, calling him “the worst kind of liberal prosecutor” who “routinely cuts soft plea deals with perps and wants to reduce sentences for criminals wreaking havoc on our streets.” Last month, Calvert’s campaign also cut a television ad calling Rollins “extreme” and noting that he “even supports reducing sentences for violent criminals including drug traffickers while California fentanyl deaths skyrocket.” 


Equality California also keeps track of state and federal lawmakers’ legislative records on key priorities and issues an annual scorecard. In 2022, the score included votes on several bills, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which, if passed, would have eliminated qualified immunity for police. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it also would have cost local departments hundreds of millions of dollars in training and equipment just when several major cities across the country had slashed funding for police. 

While Congress was considering the measure, the Fraternal Order of Police argued that ending qualified immunity was “anti-police” and would drastically reduce the number of candidates choosing to become police officers. 

Over the past several years, police departments across the country, including in San Francisco and Los Angeles, have faced severe staffing shortages as they struggle to recruit and retain officers. At the height of the defund the police movement, California lost 2,100 police officers (with full arrest powers) and roughly 1,100 civilian staff, diminishing the number of patrol officers to 1991 levels. 

In 2021 Equality California scored votes on a handful of bills, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and a measure that would have allowed adults who entered the U.S. as undocumented children to become lawful permanent residents and citizens. 


With so many leading California Democrats backtracking on criminal justice reforms, Republicans plan to hammer their opponents who remain undecided about repealing Proposition 47 and other more lenient laws as soft on crime and weak on the border. Despite polls showing voters deeply concerned about illegal immigration and President Biden’s open border policies, California Democrats have continued to support broad amnesty for illegal immigrants and the state’s controversial sanctuary state law, both of which Equality California strongly backs. 

In the state, border issues may divide some heavily Latino districts, but Republicans have a greater chance for traction when it comes to crime. Americans’ worries about what they describe as the nation’s crime problems are at a recent high, with 63% characterizing public safety concerns as either extremely or very serious in a November Gallup survey. That’s up from 54% when Gallup last polled voters on the issue and the highest level the polling company has recorded in recent years. The prior high of 60% was recorded in the initial 2000 polling, as well as in 2010 and 2016. 

It’s hard to predict whether support for specific criminal justice reforms, such as eliminating cash bail, will hold sway with voters. But with Breed, who is in a tough reelection fight for mayor, and other Democrats pivoting away from the reform movement, it will be easier to focus voters on the issue. 

While there is little comprehensive research about the impact of eliminating cash bail on crime, a study by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office in Northern California early last year found that individuals released on cash-free or low-cost bail were much more likely to re-offend than those who pasted bail. They were also far more likely to commit new violent offenses. 

The study used a random sample of 100 people arrested during the county’s zero-bail policy, which was in effect from April 2020 through May 2021. It compared those results to 100 people who were arrested and posted bail in 2018 and 2019. The study found that people released were arrested for new crimes at an average rate 70% higher than those who posted bail, committed felonies 90% more often, and committed misdemeanors 123% more often. 

Read more here.