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.