If you’re looking for a candidate with a blue-chip lawyerly pedigree, you’ve found him. The son of Los Angeles’s “dean of tax litigators,” Hochman (pronounced “Hock-man”) went from Stanford to a federal judge clerkship to the U.S. Justice Department to the White House. Now, after two decades in private practice, where he represented elected officials, celebrities and tax-avoiding millionaires, the uber-ambitious legal eagle is seeking his biggest gig yet.
Hochman puts the public’s unease about violent crime and theft at the front and center of his campaign. But it’s his wide-ranging legal background that he says most distinguishes him from the other top applicants. Criminal prosecution, civil litigation, defense and political administration — he’s done it all. So despite never having held elected office, he says he’s ready to lead the state’s Department of Justice on day one.
One complicating factor: He’s a Republican in a state that hasn’t hired a member of that party for a statewide post since 2006. Hochman stresses that crime and safety are nonpartisan concerns and that his ideas are “common sense.” As for that big question hanging over all Republican candidates in California — did he vote for President Trump? He’d rather not say.
White-collar defense attorney
When singer Lauryn Hill, Beverly Hills dermatologist Letantia Bussell and Florida multi-millionaire widow Mary Estelle Curran got in trouble with the IRS, they turned to Hochman.
Represented former Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca on charges that he obstructed a federal investigation into the county’s jails. Baca was convicted.
Represented Santa Monica business consultant George Molsbarger in a criminal gambling and corruption case. The charges were dropped.
President and member of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission
Helped enforce state and municipal campaign finance, lobbying, public contract and other other transparency laws across the City of Los Angeles.
Proposed creating a cash lottery program for anyone who casts a ballot to increase turnout. The idea didn’t go anywhere.
Assistant U.S. attorney general, tax division
Nominated by then-President George W. Bush and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate to oversee the federal government’s tax law enforcement operation.
Assistant U.S. attorney, Central District of California
Prosecuted nearly 200 federal cases across Los Angeles County, the Inland Empire and the Central Coast, including public corruption, embezzlement, fraud, environmental crimes and snake and spider smuggling.
Led the office’s task force to investigate and prosecute those who defrauded federal disaster relief programs in the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
“Criminals don’t care what political party you are a part of.”
Here’s where Nathan Hochman, applicant for attorney general, stands on the big questions about California crime, justice and law. Answers are from a sit-down interview:
Californians are increasingly concerned about crime, though the numbers paint a more complicated picture. Republicans blame voter-approved Proposition 47, which eight years ago lowered some crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. While Democrats are talking tough, they’re not proposing a return to longer prison sentences. After several high-profile cases of police killings of Black men and the George Floyd case, the California attorney general’s office now investigates all killings of unarmed civilians by law enforcement officers.
He said he would “create a spiral of lawfulness” so that “crimes actually do have measured consequences.” He also said he would make addressing fentanyl overdoses a top priority by holding regular press conferences, aggressively prosecuting dealers and launching “a very robust educational effort” aimed at kids.
Yes, though did not specify what specific changes he would like to see. Though he was particularly critical of the provision in the law that reclassified theft of property under $950 from a felony to a misdemeanor, he stressed that “as long as Prop 47’s on the books, I’m enforcing Prop 47.”
He supports the law in principle, but he would prefer that the state collaborate with local law enforcement. “To the extent that the AG’s office works with the locals, I think that is your most effective way to get out the correct answer.”
California voters have repeatedly supported keeping capital punishment, but Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a moratorium in 2019. Now, legislators and advocates are trying to pare back the death penalty with more piecemeal proposals.
“What I believe…is not important in the sense of carrying out the duties of the job of the California Attorney General’s Office…I’m signing up for a job that’s enforcing the law, not making the law.”
California has some of the country’s strictest gun laws. But Gov. Newsom and others want to pass more, namely to allow private citizens to sue gun manufacturers over illegal assault weapons and “ghost guns” — a proposal patterned after the Texas abortion law. A law already on the books — banning felons and domestic abusers from having weapons — is under scrutiny for its deadly failures.
Unclear. “At the end of the day, that’s for the California Legislature to decide.”
“The budget for going after these type of guns from prohibited persons has only gone up over the years. I’d spend the money. I’d spend the money wisely.”
The state is building a new agency to regulate Google, Facebook and other internet giants. A bill before the Legislature would hold social media companies liable for promoting apps and features that addict and damage kids’ mental health.
“I would look for every opportunity to work with the tech companies to come up with a regulatory structure that works for them and — as, or more, importantly — works for the consumers of California.” He also said that he would push for more “technological tools that parents have to monitor their children’s internet usage at the highest level.”
California’s Democratic leaders are positioning the state as a sanctuary for people seeking abortions should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade later this year. Hate crimes against Asian Americans jumped during the pandemic, with reported incidents doubling in 2020. Several California cities are rebelling against laws meant to boost affordable housing. And Native American tribes and national betting giants are gearing up for a high-stakes ballot measure fight over online sports gambling.
He declined to take a position. “The California Attorney General will enforce the laws on the books that the state Legislature passes and the governor signs.”
He said the issue needs to be studied first to ensure that hate crimes are actually being reported in the first place and, if not, why not.
“I wouldn’t back off any particular city in this state, if in fact they’ve completely forsaken their duty to comply with the state law. But on the other hand, I will absolutely take into account whatever good faith efforts they’re going to put on the table and certainly work with them to get to a point where they’re in compliance with the law.”
“I do support online sports betting…Let California be one of the leaders in this field — properly regulated, properly, licensed, properly taxed.”