John Guccione- Pexels
Newsom’s recall and big money

Brandon Ristoff

Policy Analyst

Brandon Ristoff
September 30, 2021

Newsom’s recall and big money

There was a time when California Democrats worried about money in politics. But that anxiety has eased with the rising tide of money — lots of money — flowing into Democrat political campaigns from government unions.

It’s important to note that campaign donations do not work in a recall as they do in a traditional gubernatorial election. For recall committees, there is no limit to how much donors can give. But the recall’s second question (who should replace Newsom if he was recalled) functioned on rules similar to those governing a traditional gubernatorial campaign with the usual campaign limits. You may have noticed that nearly all of the anti-recall commercials included a disclosure that they were funded by the “Stop the Republican Recall” (STRR) committee, not “Newsom 2021.”

Taken together, the committees supporting Newsom brought him almost $80 million.

The Government (Public Sector) Unions

Collectively, some of Newsom’s greatest contributors were the government unions. Over $11.5 million came from public sector unions representing government employees. The single greatest government union contribution ($1.8 million) came from the California Teachers Association. Other teachers unions contributed: the California Federation of Teachers ($252,585) and the American Federation of Teachers ($250,000). Not to be ignored, other government unions played big-donor roles: the California Correctional Peace Officers Association ($1.75 million), SEIU Local 1000 ($1 million). Unions that cover both public and private sectors also gave about $4.4 million.

Eat the Rich — Unless They’re Your Allies 

Seventeen individual donors contributed $1 million or more to one of Newsom’s anti-recall committees. The biggest anti-recall donor was Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix, who gave $3 million. Hastings was followed by the California Democratic Party ($2.5 million). Some big names have also donated to the cause, including from investor George Soros ($1 million), philanthropist Priscilla Chan ($750,000), and media mogul and Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg ($500,000). Even NBCUniversal, home of MSNBC, gave $50,000.

The Competition

Judging by the numbers, Newsom’s competition didn’t have a chance. Larry Elder collected $21 million (about $14 million for his campaign, and $1.7 million for his ballot measure committee). John Cox, whose campaign was mostly self-funded, had $12 million. Kevin Faulconer had over $4 million, Kevin Kiley had about $1 million, and Caitlyn Jenner had over $885,000.

One has to wonder if Newsom withstood this recall challenge because voters were pleased with his performance, or because they were simply impressed by his money.

Find the government union contributions list HERE.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correctly state Larry Elder raised $15.675 million. An earlier version inaccurately stated he raised over $20 million.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!