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Statement: “I also provide funding to many nonprofit organizations by taking money from drug dealers and seizing their assets and giving it back to the nonprofits,” District Attorney and mayoral candidate Bonnie Dumanis said March 26.

Determination: True

Analysis: At a mayoral candidates’ forum about nonprofit issues this week, Dumanis and her competitors tried appealing to their audience.

Each highlighted their experiences or connections to nonprofits. Congressman Bob Filner said he was helping them get tax exemptions. Councilman Carl DeMaio said he’d helped them become more efficient through his former business. Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher said his mother had worked for a nonprofit.

For her part, Dumanis listed several nonprofits that she’s advised or worked with over the years and then dropped this crowd pleaser: “I also provide funding to many nonprofit organizations by taking money from drug dealers and seizing their assets and giving it back to the nonprofits.”

The crowd broke out in laughter and applause. We marked the claim down in a notebook to check with county records later.

As district attorney, Dumanis controls the money that comes from seizing forfeited assets from drug dealers and white-collar criminals. Federal or state law enforcement agencies confiscate cars, properties and cash, and then share the earnings with local agencies that participated in the investigation.

The law is intended to deter crime by increasing financial penalties and help law enforcement agencies recoup their expenses. In the last fiscal year, the District Attorney’s Office received more than $400,000 from federal agencies, according to an annual report. It spent about $276,000 of that money and put the rest into a savings account that totaled $1.8 million at the end of the year.

Most of the spending last year paid for $100,000 in overtime for her staff or miscellaneous expenses. A banquet honoring survivors of crime and good Samaritans cost about $22,000. Equipment for an office gym cost nearly $8,000. Cell phones for a gang unit cost more than $13,000.

Local nonprofits got a chunk of the spending, too. Dumanis gave more than $13,000 to the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils and VIP Mentors to support a campaign against youth violence and gangs. She gave $2,600 to provide safety equipment for a pee-wee football team run by a nonprofit.

Dumanis also gave about $21,000 for an AmeriCorps program that aims to help non-violent drug offenders seek treatment and other services after being released from prison in San Diego County. Nonprofits typically operate the program locally and Dumanis’ funding sponsored five volunteers.

Dumanis said she had funded many nonprofits through the program. We decided not to rate her statement based on the number of nonprofits she’d funded because “many” is a subjective term and Dumanis didn’t describe a timeframe.

We simply determined whether Dumanis had given money to nonprofits. Since county records back up Dumanis’ assertion that she used seized assets from drug dealers to support at least a few nonprofits, we’ve labeled the statement True.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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