Here’s Who Invested in Gavin Newsom – and What They Want Him to Do

While campaigning for governor last year, Gavin Newsom said he wouldn’t be swayed by political donations.

Just because an organization supports you, he said, you’re not necessarily “an apologist for their point of view.”

That doesn’t mean donors aren’t trying.

Labor unions, housing developers and wealthy entrepreneurs are among the thousands of people and groups who gave money to help elect Newsom, according to the final disclosure reports filed by his campaign.

Donors directly gave him roughly $50 million, allowing him to spend more on television ads – $21 million – than his Republican opponent John Cox raised in total. Others ran independent campaigns on his behalf.

Now that Newsom is governor, he’s facing pressure from many of those top contributors to implement policies they support.

Here’s a look at some of the groups that spent big to help the Democratic governor and what they want him to do:


Labor unions spent millions on independent efforts supporting Newsom, allowing them to avoid donation limits as long as they didn’t coordinate with his campaign.. More than two dozen representing a range of professions – from health care workers to construction crews – also gave the legal maximum amount of $58,400 directly to Newsom’s campaign.

Various branches of the Service Employees International Union spent more than more than $2.7 million. The union has applauded Newsom’s efforts to boost funding for the state’s early education programs and his proposal to expand paid family leave, policies the union says will help working families.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association also spent big to help elect Newsom, dropping $2.8 million.

“We trust Governor Newsom to work closely with public safety leaders and law enforcement to improve our state’s criminal justice system, increase public safety and support and respect the men and women who wear a badge,” the group’s spokeswoman Nichol Gomez-Pryde said in a statement.

The state is negotiating a new contract with the correctional officers union, whose current contract expires in July.


The California Nurses Association spent more than $700,000 on independent efforts to elect Newsom and gave the maximum contribution allowed to his campaign. The group wants Newsom and the Legislature to create a government-funded universal health care system, often called a “single-payer” system.

The nurses endorsed Newsom largely for his commitment to such a system, said Stephanie Roberson, a lobbyist for the union.

But the health care groups backing Newsom don’t all agree on what they want. Private health insurance companies, which could cease to exist under a single-payer system, generally oppose the idea.

Blue Shield of California, for example, spent about $1 million supporting Newsom. The group was one of the insurers who opposed a bill in the Legislature’s last session that would have created a single-payer system in California.

So far, Newsom has taken steps toward expanding access to health care for Californians within the current system, which is made up of both public and private insurance options. He’s also sent a letter to the Trump administration asking for permission for California to develop its own single-payer system, which his office characterizes as an important first step.

In a statement, Blue Shield praised Newsom’s efforts to prop up the Affordable Care Act and to expand eligibility for the state’s health insurance program for low-income people to some immigrants living in the country illegally.

“We applaud the Governor’s actions to make health care more affordable and accessible for all Californians,” Blue Shield spokeswoman Amanda Wardell said “They align with our own mission to create a healthcare system that is worthy of our family and friends that is sustainably affordable.”

The nurses union has also been complimentary, citing Newsom’s plans to help more people access health care and lower drug prices.

Roberson said the governor’s move to ask the federal government for permission to implement a single-payer system is proactive, and said the nurses will continue to push for single-payer. She said she’s not concerned that other groups with competing interests also donated to Newsom.

“They’re going to double down on the winning horse,” Roberson said. “We don’t see that as a sign that this governor is going to be bought and paid for.”

She demurred when asked what the nurses union would do if Newsom backs away from his single-payer promises.

“All we can do as an organization is continue to push our agenda and make our case,” she said. “We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.”


California teachers unions spent more than $1.3 million supporting Newsom and gave the most they could directly to his campaign.

They’ve applauded his commitment to making charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run, more transparent about how they spend their money and his call for more state oversight.

Newsom also became the preferred candidate for some prominent charter school backers, who often oppose the teachers unions in California politics.

Charter schools, for example, were a major point of contention during the teachers strike last month in Los Angeles. As part of the deal to end the strike, the school district agreed to the union’s demand to consider a cap on charters.

Netflix founder Reed Hastings was among the major donors behind a more-than-$20 million campaign primarily funded by charter advocates last year to support Antonio Villaraigosa, who promoted charter schools while he was mayor of Los Angeles.

After Antonio Villaraigosa lost to Newsom in the primary, Hastings and several other donors who typically back pro-charter candidates, including philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, gave the maximum to Newsom’s campaign ahead of the general election.


The California Building Industry Association, which represents housing developers, spent $1.5 million on Newsom.

So far, the group’s president Dan Dunmoyer says they’re pleased with the new governor’s proposals. He praised Newsom’s commitment to streamlining regulations that slow construction and reducing developer fees that drive up construction costs.

“He made a strong commitment to build more housing units,” Dunmoyer said. “It’s now moving government out of the way of itself to make it easier and more affordable to build.”

Housing policy in Sacramento often becomes mired in fights over wage requirements for construction workers. Developers generally oppose such requirements. arguing they drive up costs. Unions typically argue they ensure construction workers are paid fairly.

Despite Newsom’s support from unions, Dunmoyer said he’s not worried Newsom will push prevailing wage requirements for single-family homes, but he anticipates other areas of disagreement between builders and the governor.

Some landlords and the California Apartment Association gave all they were allowed to Newsom’s campaign.

On the campaign trail, Newsom hinted he would broker a compromise on rent control, one of the most contentious political issues last year because of Proposition 10, a ballot measure that would have let cities and counties pass or expand rent control policies. The fight pitted landlords against tenant-rights groups.

Newsom has yet to weigh in on the issue since taking office. But he is talking with the players involved.

“There are conversations that are happening as we speak around pursuing prospects of some rent caps,” Newsom said at a San Jose town hall on housing in January. “We’re working with some of the biggest developers in the state and the biggest advocates — both the Apartment Association, the Realtors and others — to pursue what we perceive — or rather, we refer to — as a compromise around Proposition 10.”