Table of Contents
- 1 Five mega-donors spent more than $100 million total electing Democrats
- 2 California’s top five Republican mega-donors dwarfed by Democrats, but still spent $36 million
- 3 California’s ballot measures have cost more than half a billion dollars
- 4 Ballot measure with the deepest pockets – Prop 22
- 5 Ballot measure with the most expensive opposition – Prop 23
- 6 Third most expensive ballot measure is hotly contested – Prop 15
Campaign finance records fall quickly these days, as big money gets bigger and new records are set each election cycle. Still, what’s happening in 2020 is staggering.
According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, over $3 billion has been raised so far for the presidential race, breaking previous records, and “dark money” groups whose largesse is harder to track are spending “unprecedented amounts of money to influence the 2020 election.” Deep blue California won’t see Donald Trump or Joe Biden on this year’s campaign trail, but its deep-pocketed donors from both parties are playing huge parts in the race for the White House.
And it’s not just federal spending charting new territory. Money to sway voters on statewide ballot measures is also flowing fast, with more than a half-billion dollars spent so far, according to an analysis by this news organization — the bulk of that on just three hotly contested propositions.
And there’s more than three weeks left before Election Day.
Here’s a look at where that big money comes from, and where it’s going:
Five mega-donors spent more than $100 million total electing Democrats
- Tom Steyer – $57,502,386
- Karla Jurvetson – $22,961,590
- George Marcus – $10,518,200
- Reid Hoffman & Michelle Yee – $9,583,374
- Edythe & Eli Broad – $6,178,800
The top five California contributors to Democrats have spent over $106 million on presidential and congressional races so far in the 2019-2020 federal election cycle, as of the first week of October.
The biggest individual spender from California is Tom Steyer, who funneled tens of millions of dollars into his own unsuccessful presidential campaign, as well as efforts to undermine and unseat President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress. The second biggest contributor is Karla Jurvetson, a Silicon Valley-based doctor and Democratic fundraiser who spent more than $14 million on Elizabeth Warren’s unsuccessful presidential run, and has given millions more to other Democratic causes around the country.
George Marcus, a billionaire real estate investor in San Francisco, is the third-largest donor to Democratic causes, and is California’s biggest-money supporter of Joe Biden. Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, and his wife, Michelle Yee, have donated to a wide variety of Democratic committees and candidates. Billionaire entrepreneur Eli Broad and his wife Edythe Broad, famous for their philanthropic spending, have spent over $6 million supporting Democratic candidates, including nearly $3 million to the League of Conservation Voters’ Super PAC.
California’s top five Republican mega-donors dwarfed by Democrats, but still spent $36 million
- Charles & Helen Schwab – $12,947,500
- Geoffrey Palmer – $10,460,400
- Laura Khouri & Michael Hayde – $5,804,580
- Barbara Grimm-Marshall & Darcy Marshall – $4,213,497
- Saul Fox – $2,570,803
Charles Schwab, the billionaire owner of his self-named financial services company, and his wife, Helen, together are California’s largest source of individual contributions to conservative and Republican causes.
Geoffrey Palmer, a California real estate developer, has given $6 million to the America First Action Super PAC that supports President Trump and Trump’s agenda. He also donated to many state Republican parties and candidates. Laura Khouri and her husband Michael Hayde own a large property management company in Orange County and have given millions to get more Republicans elected to Congress.
Barbara Grimm-Marshall, a giant in the baby carrot industry, and her husband, Darcy Marshall, are the third-largest individual contributors to Republicans, giving money to committees that support Trump and Republican parties around the country. Saul Fox, a private equity CEO, has donated more than $2.5 million in this election cycle and has hosted fundraisers for Trump at his Silicon Valley home.
California’s ballot measures have cost more than half a billion dollars
California is notorious for its messy, direct-democracy approach to many big state issues, with ballot measures inspiring massive spending each statewide election season. Proposition 22, which would allow Uber, Lyft, and other major tech companies to keep treating their drivers as contractors rather than employees, has already broken the previous record for most expensive ballot measure, by a long shot.
Overall, more than a half-billion dollars has been spent as of Oct. 4 on the 12 statewide ballot measures that voters will decide on this year. The majority of the spending has been on three ballot measures: In addition to the high-profile Proposition 22, there are Proposition 23’s expensive fight over dialysis clinics and the contentious Proposition 15 over business property taxes.
Ballot measure with the deepest pockets – Prop 22
Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have flooded the “Yes on 22” committee with money to spend on TV ads and direct mailers seeking to convince voters to support the measure. Proposition 22 would exempt the companies’ drivers from new legislation passed last year that could force the companies to treat their drivers as employees, with employee benefits and regular hours. As of Oct. 4, efforts to support Proposition 22 have raised over $186 million.
Ballot measure with the most expensive opposition – Prop 23
Proposition 23 is the ballot measure facing the most opposition spending this year. Anchored by the nation’s dialysis heavy hitters DaVita, Fresenius, and US Renal Care, the “No on 23” campaign has deployed $93 million to fight the “dialysis reform” measure. Opponents broke the previous record for spending against a similar ballot measure in the 2017-2018 election cycle.
The dialysis companies and other opponents say the measure could force dialysis clinics to close, threatening the lives of their patients who need consistent dialysis treatments to survive. Supporters say the measure would improve safety at the clinics through new requirements, such as requiring licensed medical personnel on site, and prevent providers from discriminating based on who pays for the treatments.
Third most expensive ballot measure is hotly contested – Prop 15
The most closely contested big-money battle is Proposition 15, which would create a “split roll” property tax system. If passed, owners of commercial and industrial properties valued over $3 million would pay higher property taxes, and that money would go to education.
Supporters of the measure have raised $55 million, supported and funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Advocacy and public sector unions; the California Teachers Association and the SEIU California State Council.
Opponents of the measure have spent $39 million to defeat it, and most of that money has come from California Business Roundtable Issues PAC, the California Taxpayers Association PAC, and the California Business Properties Association Issues PAC, with lots of money from real estate and other businesses groups who say the measure would unfairly harm small businesses.