Gavin Newsom is essentially running against Donald Trump in the recall. His ads, which are running on TV and are filling my Facebook feed, call the recall an effort by “the same Republicans who refused to accept the election results” and “are passing voter suppression laws across the country.”
Now, the ads say, these Trumpers “have set their sights on California.”
Newsom is not wrong: The recall is, indeed, an effort driven by the GOP, which is way out of power in this state and has elected only one governor in the past 26 years – through a recall.
But while the news is focused on his campaign and his ads, there’s been less attention to another recall effort that is, to at least some extent, funded by people connected to Trump allies.
The campaign to recall San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, records show, has raised much of its money from groups funded by some of the national GOP’s most reliable donors.
The way these folks move money around, it can be hard to track the actual people who are putting up the cash. What they typically do is set up state-registered committees, which have different disclosure deadlines from San Francisco committees, then run the money from one to another so the average voter doesn’t always know who is paying for which ads.
But with a little research, it’s easy to show that the big money behind the recall comes from a couple of groups that have been pushing against progressive candidates and causes in the city for the past several years – with the help of at least one rich loyal Republican donor.
Let’s start with a group called Neighbors for a Better San Francisco.
This is an organization that raised $3 million in the fall of 2020 to try to block progressive taxes and support Mayor London Breed’s candidates for the Board of Supes.
One of its major funders: William Obendorf. As we pointed out, he
has donated more than $1 million to the Republican Party to keep Mitch McConnell in control of the US Senate. He is a strong supporter of charter schools, an ally of Betsy DeVos, and put almost $50,000 into the anti-homeless measure Prop. Q in 2016.
It appears from public filings that this organization ended its unsuccessful efforts in 2020 with $300,000 in the bank. And now some of that money (at least $100,000) is going to try to recall Boudin.
Another big donor to the recall: The San Francisco Common Sense Voter Guide, which has put $50,000 into the effort. That’s a committee created by the main lobbyists for the San Francisco Board of Realtors, Mary Jung and Jay Cheng.
The Common Sense Voter Guide got $73,000 from a state-registered PAC called Fed Up San Francisco. Fed Up’s main money comes from (imagine!) Neighbors for a Better San Francisco, along with the Chamber of Commerce ($100,000) and the downtown-backed Committee on Jobs.
Oh, there’s more: Daniel O’Keefe, a Chicago-based investor, put up $50,000 for a different recall committee (there are two). (Why does a rich guy in Chicago want to get rid of the San Francisco district attorney? Don’t know. But I know that he also donated, according to FEC filings, to both Biden for president and to Republican David Perdue’s US Senate campaign in Georgia last year.) William Fisher, an heir to the GAP fortune created by his GOP-allied father, gave $50,000. Real-estate investor David DeWilde put up $100,000.
So here’s what’s going on:
Whatever you hear or see about the Boudin recall signature effort, and if it does qualify, the ads that you are going to see, are part of a national right-wing effort to undermine progressive criminal justice reform. Boudin won the election on a platform of doing exactly what he has done; there’s no scandal here.
The backers are also part of a local movement backed by Big Tech and real estate that is trying to control the direction of local politics – these days, with little success.
Many of the people involved were strong supporters of Boudin’s opponents.
Like Trump supporters, they don’t seem to want to accept the outcome of an election.