With the California recall election less than three weeks away, the campaign fighting the effort to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom has established a commanding lead in cash raised — with local donors playing a major role.
Even though none of the 46 candidates vying to replace Newsom are from the Midpeninsula, area residents are leading the way when it comes to raising money to fight the recall, campaign finance data from Secretary of State Shirley Weber shows.
Of the roughly $58 million that the main anti-recall campaign has raised to date, the vast majority has come from labor unions and statewide political action committees. At the same time, more than $3.4 million came from individuals in the Midpeninsula cities of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Redwood City, Portola Valley and Woodside. This includes $1.43 million from Palo Alto donors, a field that includes — among others — prominent tech executives, philanthropists, developers and investors.
The biggest local donor — by a wide margin — was George Marcus, founder of the real estate firm Marcus & Millichap Company and longtime donor to Democratic causes. Marcus donated $1 million to the anti-recall campaign, Stop the Republican Recall. Among all of Newsom's individual donors, only Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, contributed more to the cause: $3 million.
Hastings, Marcus and Connie Balmer, a Washington resident who contributed $1 million to oppose the recall, are the only individuals on the list of top 16 donors to the anti-recall campaign. Others on the list include the California Democratic Party, which gave $2.15 million to oppose the recall; Dignity Service Employees International Union Local 2015, which contributed $2 million; the California Teachers Association Independent Expenditure Committee, which gave $1.8 million; and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, Truth in American Government Fund, which contributed $1.75 million.
Marcus, well known for his Democratic activism, is hardly the only donor from this area to make a sizable contribution to the campaign fighting the recall. Atherton philanthropist Elizabeth D. Simons, chair of the Heising-Simons Foundation board, made two contributions to the committee totaling $575,000. Her husband, Mark Heising, founder of the investment firm Medley Partners, contributed another $425,000.
Other notable Palo Alto residents who contributed to the anti-recall campaign are Laurene Powell Jobs, president of Emerson Collective, who gave $400,000 to the committee known as Stop the Republican Recall. Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo, and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who now manages the investment firm Hillspire LLC, contributed $200,000 and $100,000, respectively.
The anti-recall committee also benefited from contributions from Redwood City investor Doris Fisher, who gave $250,000, and developer Richard Tod Spieker, an Atherton resident who contributed $100,000 to keep Newsom in office. Other local developers who have chipped in to support Newsom include John Sobrato, who gave $6,000 over two separate contributions, and Peter Pao, who contributed $500.
They are among the roughly 2,000 contributors from the Midpeninsula who donated to fight the recall effort, helping the anti-recall campaign establish a commanding fundraising lead over those of Newsom's challengers for the governor's job. The overwhelming majority are small donors. Of the contributions that had been reported as of Aug. 25, all but 32 were for amounts of $1,000 or lower.
Several of Newsom's 46 opponents in the recall effort have also benefited from local largess. Talk show host Larry Elder, who has amassed a war chest of $6.8 million, is among them. Though his list of top donors is dominated by contributors from southern California, Elder has also received $32,400 contributions from Woodside resident Saul Fox, CEO of Fox Paine; $5,000 from Palo Alto investor William Jarvis; and $2,000 contribution from local developer Boyd Smith.
Woodside resident Stacey Siebel, a philanthropist whose husband, Thomas Siebel, founded the software company Siebel Systems, gave $5,000 to Elder's campaign. She also contributed $25,000 to the campaign of Kevin Faulconer, the former San Diego mayor who is also hoping to replace Newsom.
Despite these efforts, the total amount raised by Elder's campaign from the Midpeninsula is just a fraction of that received by the anti-recall faction. Donors from the cities Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Woodside, and Portola Valley accounted for $79,575 in contributions received by Elder.
Businessman John Cox has reported $7.7 million in contributions, though $6.9 million consist of money he contributed to his own campaign. His biggest contributor from the Midpeninsula area was the Sunnyvale-based construction company De Anza Building and Maintenance, which gave $32,400 to Cox (while state law caps contributions to gubernatorial candidates at $32,400, that rule does not apply to contributions made by political parties or by political action committees that are not tied to a particular candidate). No one else from the Midpeninsula gave more than $100 to the Cox campaign, finance records show.
Faulconer's biggest supporter from the area is Palo Alto resident John Chambers, who contributed $32,400 to Faulconer. Los Altos Hills resident Douglas Scrivener contributed $17,500, while Woodside resident Michael Marks gave $15,000, records show.