State Senate candidate's mom puts $460K toward son's campaign | News | Palo Alto Online |


State Senate candidate's mom puts $460K toward son's campaign

Michael Brownrigg is 1 of 7 candidates vying to represent Senate District 13

One of the seven candidates campaigning to represent the territory from South San Francisco to Sunnyvale in the California Senate recently received a major boost to his campaign when his mother created a $460,000 independent expenditure committee to support her son, Burlingame City Councilman Michael Brownrigg, in his quest for higher office.

Brownrigg says he learned via a phone call from his campaign team based in Sacramento last Friday, Jan. 17, that his mother, Linda Brownrigg, a Los Altos Hills resident, had made the significant donation to aid his political campaign. The information was filed in a public recording, and they learned of the contribution from a Twitter feed called "Dollar Dollar Bill - Senate Races," a live campaign finance feed for California's senate races, according to Brownrigg, a Democrat.

"I was flabbergasted by her support," he said. "She's a generous person, but I did not have any idea that was coming."

According to campaign finance documents filed with the California Secretary of State office, Linda Brownrigg first contributed $35,000 on Jan. 6 and then an additional $425,000 on Jan. 16.

The funds were placed in an independent expenditure committee, called Californians Supporting Brownrigg for Senate 2020, which is separate from Brownrigg's campaign committee.

Brownrigg's campaign committee raised $314,517 in the first six months of 2019, the most recent full report that is available at the California Secretary of State website, and a full report of funds raised in 2019 is forthcoming. The deadline for reporting campaign contributions made in 2020 is Jan. 23, and the deadline for reporting on campaign contributions received in the second half of 2019 is Jan. 31, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, or FPPC.

Brownrigg personally has contributed a total of $300,000 to his campaign, with a $50,000 donation recorded on June 30 last year and a $250,000 contribution recorded on Nov. 22 last year, according to campaign finance documents.

According to the FPPC, an independent expenditure committee is considered to be any individual or entity that spends more than $1,000 or more in a calendar year on communications for a candidate or measure. Such communications clearly advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate or a state or local ballot measure and are not coordinated or made at the request of the affected candidate or committee.

In other words, Brownrigg, the candidate, is not permitted to coordinate how his mother's committee contribution is spent. If any coordination were to happen, then funds spent would count as a campaign contribution and would be subject to the voluntary $930,000 spending limit established for state Senate candidates, according to the FPPC.

"I don't have any idea what the committee thinks it's going to do," Brownrigg told The Almanac.

"I was caught by surprise, but I am proud of my mom and it's been a hard year for her. We lost my stepdad a few months ago. I'm sorry she's in the papers, to be honest," he added.

When asked how the contribution would affect his campaign strategy, he said it wouldn't.

"We're going to keep executing on the plan we've laid out and meet as many people as we can. ... I'm not going to stop doing what I think is right," he said, adding that he intends to keep listening to people and talking about his key priorities, which he characterizes as his "ACE" agenda: affordability, climate and education.

"From a campaign point of view, I like having family behind me," he said. "I'm not answering to anybody except my own conscience."

The other six candidates for state Senate are Democrat Josh Becker of Menlo Park, a philanthropist and former venture capitalist and CEO; Republican Alexander Glew, an engineer and Los Altos Design Review commissioner; Democrat Sally Lieber, a former Mountain View City council member and state Assembly member; Democrat Shelly Masur, a Redwood City vice mayor, nonprofit executive and former school board member; Democrat Annie Oliva, a real estate agent and Millbrae City Council member; and Libertarian John Webster.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Kate Bradshaw writes for The Almanac, the sister publication of

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23 people like this
Posted by Wealth Shouldn't Win
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 22, 2020 at 12:34 am

Between Brownrigg and his mother, they will have spent $760,000 on his campaign. This kind of money is a huge advantage in this kind of race where most people are low information. I guess wealthy people get to purchase their seats now.

We desperately need campaign finance reform. Brownrigg comes from a wealthy family, represents a wealthy city, and hangs out with wealthy donors in Palo Alto and Atherton. He doesn't get it and he'll get nothing done for those of us without wealth.

I hope that voters will choose a woman with some integrity (i.e. not Oliva) over the wealthy men in the race.

16 people like this
Posted by Public Financing of Elections
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2020 at 5:54 am

> I guess wealthy people get to purchase their seats now.

They always have, either their own seat or buying/bribing politicians with 'donations'. Any argument there?

I thought not.

solution: Public Financing of Elections. Better that politicians owe the public, than a few millionaires and billionaires.

Here's a link to Brennan, though there are a number of sites with good info on it. Look at Maine and Arizona, states with public financing of elections. Web Link

It generally is supported by the weaker party (R's in Maine, D's in AZ) so should be a slam dunk getting CA conservatives to get Calif on board. Third party candidates as well.

2 people like this
Posted by Lauren
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 22, 2020 at 9:02 am

[Post removed.]

6 people like this
Posted by Lauren
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 22, 2020 at 11:14 am

[Post removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Brownrigg Supports Office Space
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2020 at 11:59 am

Brownrigg touts his creating a neighborhood near BART of maybe 2000 housing units. But he doesn't mention his support of adding 9,000 jobs to Burlingame. Web Link Here are quotes from that article:

Officials should plan for as many as nearly 9,700 new jobs to be offered in Burlingame over the next couple decades, according to a recent report designed to project the community’s future growth.

While the expectation for the city to have as many as roughly 39,000 jobs by 2040 is about on par with earlier projections, the route to reaching that amount is more steep than was initially expected.

The Burlingame City Council addressed Monday, Sept. 18, the economic growth as part of its work to rebuild its general plan, which shapes future policy decisions and local regulations, according to video of the meeting.

A consultant — hired to help draft the document — projected officials should expect Burlingame to be home to 39,610 jobs by 2040, which is 9,731 more employment opportunities than currently offered.

The projection is largely aligned with a similar figure floated by the firm last year when it was claimed there should be 38,356 jobs in Burlingame in a couple decades.


Over the next couple decades, the report shows Burlingame could build about 2,951 housing units, which would boost its current population by as many as 6,876 residents to a total population of 36,600.

Councilwoman Emily Beach noted the projected job growth outpaces the planned residential building, which could further regional concerns over housing affordability.

“This is exacerbating the issue, that is a red flag,” said Beach.


Meanwhile, Vice Mayor Michael Brownrigg questioned the importance of the projection, claiming many of the potential impacts brought by the growth could be offset by coming innovations.

Concerns regarding traffic congestion are lessened due to an expected uptick in autonomous cars and the environmental issues should be less once most cars are electric while parking issues could be resolved through improved shuttle use, said Brownrigg.

Brownrigg also downplayed concerns over potentially compounding the jobs and housing imbalance, suggesting the issue should be viewed regionally rather than at a city level.

3 people like this
Posted by Buy American Politics
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 22, 2020 at 2:00 pm

You cannot discount a mother's love for her child while encouraging and/or financially supporting their efforts towards seeking a higher plane of public recognition (along with possible contributions to the betterment of all citizens and even mankind).

Didn't Joseph Kennedy share the same aspirations & conduct similar efforts/energies with his own children?

Political campaigns are expensive and the more money one has to promote their candidacy the better chances they have of getting elected based on voter visibility.

Though they are primarily using their own monetary resources, Tom Steyer & Mayor Bloomberg are no different.

Buy American & keep the underfinanced candidates out...that's how it's done in the USA.

1 person likes this
Posted by Lloyd Bensen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 22, 2020 at 5:34 pm

Didn't Joseph Kennedy?

I knew a Joseph Kennedy, I worked with him, and this kid ain't no Joe Kennedy.


Seriously, you really want to go with that name association?

3 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 23, 2020 at 12:39 pm

I moved here in 1974, to this community but not Palo Alto per se, and attended school with Syvia Brownrigg in fifth, sixth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades at Fremont Hills (part of PAUSD, our teacher was Mrs Creighton) and Gunn. Sylvia Brownrigg graduated as one of the top 4 or 5 students in our class, went to Yale, went to John Hopkins for her MFA in creative writing and is an author and Mom living in the Bay Area. I see her occassionally, she is a friend.

Michale "Ferbs" Brownrigg, I believe, attended the same schools as I did, Fremont Hills, Terman and Gunn, but never at the same time as me -- the Brownriggs lived in England on and off for some of that time, and he was 3 classes ahead of me. I've met him a handful of times in 46 years, and correspond with him occassionally about his leadership roles in Burlingame and the Bay Area.

I'm undecided on this campaign, giving serious consideration to Josh Becker.

I am familiar with all the candidates -- they are all qualifed to lead.

But the idea that this is anything other than a mom believes in her son is ludicrous. Total red herring. Becker is as wealthy as Brownrigg. Do you really want to elimnate anybody who is a success in business?

I don't see any reason why someone would believe that Michael Brownrigg wouldn't represent you, no matter where you live, what you do, what God you worship or don't, what music you like, how tall you are, where your grandparents lived or whether you would stand in line for an hour for ramen or not.

Who is Kate Bradshaw? This article is beneath the standards of PAW and writers like Gen Shyner, Joceyln Dong and Bill Johnson.

Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2020 at 8:20 pm

Instead of voting for a Tiger Cub OR the candidate with her real estate broker’s license “pulled” according to Palo Alto Daily Post, OR the Democratic union machine candidate above, I recommend Alex Glew, who is highly educated and who runs his own engineering business. He knows issues facing many voters in our region.

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