Palo Alto may be a Democratic bastion, but it's the Republican candidate for governor who is leading the race for local campaign cash, records show.
Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO who constantly portrays herself as an independent outsider, has raked in more contributions from Palo Alto donors than her Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jerry Brown, despite the city's heavy Democratic leanings. By Sept. 30, Whitman has received $526,111 compared to the $328,553 raised by Brown.
In Menlo Park, another Silicon Valley city that normally favors Democrats, Whitman had raised $272,749 from local donors by the end of September, compared to $134,865 raised by Brown.
Whitman's hometown advantage has exaggerated the fundraising difference in Atherton, where she enjoyed a nearly eightfold lead over Brown -- $738,131 versus $97,143.
The topic of campaign finance re-emerged at this week's gubernatorial debate at the Dominican College in San Rafael. Whitman, a billionaire who has invested about $140 million into her campaign, said her personal contributions allow her to be independent from special interests and accused Brown of being beholden to public-employee unions, who contributed heavily to his campaign.
"The expenditure of my own money allows me to be independent, to go to Sacramento with no strings attached," Whitman said.
Brown countered that in addition to Whitman's own contributions, she has received millions from "the kind of corporate executives who would benefit directly from her key economic plank." Whitman's proposals include eliminating the capital-gains tax and imposing a one-year moratorium on Assembly Bill 32, a 2006 law that restricts greenhouse-gas emissions.
Campaign finance reports show that while Whitman's gubernatorial run is largely self-funded, she has also won the confidence and financial support of dozens of the area's leading venture capitalists and CEOs. Many of Whitman's Midpeninsula donors contributed $25,900, the maximum allowed per contribution, to her campaign in the last reporting period.
In Palo Alto, that list includes Donald Dixon, partner in Trident Capital; John Gunn, chairman of Dodge & Cox; James Breyer, a venture capitalist with Accel Partners; Marc Andreessen, chairman of Ning; Laura Arrillaga, founder of Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund; Thomas Siebel, chairman of First Virtual Group; and Stratton Sclavos, a partner at Radar Partners.
In Menlo Park, Whitman's top donors include venture capitalists Geoff Yang of Redpoint Ventures; William Bowes, Jr., of U.S. Venture Capital; Ravi Mhatre of Lightspeed Venture Partners; David Marquardt of August Capital; and Brion Applegate of Spectrum Equity Investors. In Atherton, her donors include Doug Leone of Sequoia Capital; Nersi Nazari of Pacific General Ventures; and Jesse Rogers of Altamont Capital Partners.
Whitman also received the endorsement earlier this month from the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, which lauded her local roots and managerial know-how.
"Of course, Meg comes from Silicon Valley and in her years at eBay displayed the kind of leadership we need in Sacramento," chamber President Pat Dando said in a statement.
Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, Whitman outspent Brown $120.6 million to $10.7 million, campaign finance data shows.
At Tuesday's debate, Whitman accused Brown of being beholden to public labor unions and said Brown has been "joined in the hip" with unions for 40 years. If Brown is elected, Whitman said, he would convene a meeting with union bosses who would "collect IOUs for having funded Jerry Brown's entire campaign."
Brown disputed Whitman's allegation that union bosses funded his entire campaign and alluded to the support he received from the business community and individual contributors.
Campaign finance data shows that Brown actually received funds from more contributors in Palo Alto than Whitman, but these contributions tended to be smaller than the ones Whitman collected. Brown received $52,700 from developer George Marcus of the firm Marcus & Millichap Co., and $10,000 from Alma Plaza developer John McNellis. Ed Bugnion, a vice president at Cisco Systems, contributed $10,000 to Brown's campaign, while attorney Chris Kelly contributed $5,000 and developer Charles "Chop" Keenan gave $1,500.
Brown also received smaller checks from Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss and former Palo Alto Mayor Peter Drekmeier.
Brown ended the last reporting period with $22.6 million in his campaign chest, compared to Whitman's $9.2 million.