Democrats, unions pour cash into California recall fight
National Democrats and California’s most powerful labor unions are pouring late cash into the race to save Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) from a recall election he faces next month as his team floods the airwaves in a last-minute blitz.
Reports filed with the California secretary of state’s office show that the Democratic Governors Association has given Newsom’s committee $5 million since the beginning of August, including another $1 million infusion on Tuesday.
At the same time, unions that wield enormous power in California politics have contributed almost as much, from the state Conference of Carpenters to the Service Employees International Union and the International Association of Fire Fighters. Native American tribes have contributed $1 million in recent weeks.
Newsom’s spokesman said the late spending was evidence that the campaign’s efforts to build one of the largest get-out-the-vote machines in recent memory is paying off.
“From day one of this race, we have been focused on building a voter information and mobilization campaign that is unprecedented in California history, and we have built a broad coalition to help power those efforts,” the spokesman, Nathan Click, said in an email.
Newsom’s team has been allowed to raise unlimited sums of late cash because of a California state law that treats the recount campaign like a ballot measure. Committees engaged in ballot measure-style campaigns are not confined by contribution limits that apply to candidates — including those who are running to replace Newsom should he be recalled.
The relative disparity has given Newsom a huge advantage on the television airwaves. Pro-Newsom campaigns and independent groups have spent or reserved almost $30 million in airtime across the state, according to the nonpartisan media monitoring firm AdImpact. Republican candidates running to unseat Newsom have spent or reserved less than half that much.
This week alone, Democratic groups are spending $3 million on television and radio advertising, according to AdImpact. Republican campaigns are spending just more than $1.4 million over the same period, about $880,000 of which comes from conservative Republican radio host Larry Elder.
Newsom’s campaign had raised $46 million through the end of July, and recent filings with the secretary of state’s office show it has raised at least another $17 million this month.
By contrast, the pro-recall campaign committee — which is not supporting a particular candidate beyond its opposition to Newsom — had raised $8.7 million through the end of July. None of the Republicans running to unseat Newsom had raised more than $10 million by the end of July, the reports show.
Democratic strategists said the Newsom team is acting confident in private conversations, pointing to early voting data that shows Democratic voters are tuning in to a recall that Newsom has pilloried as a Republican power grab.
They also sought to put the late cascade of money into context in the nation’s largest state, where millions of dollars will go only a fraction of the distance in reaching voters that it might in a smaller state.
“It may seem like a large investment in a state like North Carolina or Maine, but the cost to reach so many millions of voters here in the Golden State is exponentially more expensive than anywhere else in the U.S.,” said Dave Jacobson, a Los Angeles-based Democratic strategist. “I suspect they’re spending because they’re not taking anything for granted.”
Some of the wealthiest people in the world, and the Democratic Party’s biggest donors, are making certain that no stone goes unturned. Priscilla Chan, the physician and wife of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, gave Newsom’s team $750,000 earlier this month. Laurene Powell Jobs, the owner of The Atlantic and the widow of late Apple founder Steve Jobs, gave $200,000, while investor George Soros chipped in $250,000, and movie magnate Jeffrey Katzenberg donated $500,000.
Corporations are allowed to donate to ballot measure-style campaigns as well, and companies such as Airbnb, Anheuser-Busch, Anthem Blue Cross and Uber have all given to Newsom’s efforts in recent weeks. NBCUniversal, the parent company of television networks, movie studios and theme parks based in California, donated $25,000.
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