The 2022 Santa Clara election is turning into a replay of the 2020 election. It is a Battle of the Billionaires: Related Companies vs. the 49ers.
Related Companies was granted an entitlement to build on the City’s 240-acre golf course 10 years ago, but so far it has built nothing and paid nothing in rent.
The 49ers have operated and played in Levi’s Stadium for eight years. The 49ers pay facility rent, which in large part, is paying off the Stadium’s construction debt of about $850 million.
In the past, Related donated directly to candidates as well as the Santa Clara police union PAC, which has a history as a gray money operation for developers to support Gillmor’s candidates. This year, however, Related has established its own PAC exclusively to support Gillmor’s re-election.
As of Sept. 22, Related Companies has put $100,000 into the PAC but has not reported any spending.
As of the same date, the 49ers have put $2.5 million into six PACs. Three of these PACs oppose Santa Clara mayor Lisa Gillmor and two first-time City Council candidates: Larry McColloch and Christian Pellecchia. The second three PACs support candidate for mayor and District 6 City Council Member Anthony Becker, and incumbent Council Members Raj Chahal (District 2) and Karen Hardy (District 3).
The 49ers PACs have spent $709,000 on independent expenditures supporting the three candidates. They have also spent $1.8 million opposing Gillmor and the two council challengers; $828,000 alone on anti-Gillmor TV ads and mailers.
The police union PAC has reported no developer donations, leading to speculation that Gillmor’s regular developer supporters are planning to sit this one out or donate to Related’s PAC.
None of the candidates have reported any donations yet.
While the 49ers’ independent expenditure spending is an eye-popping number for a local election, it is not eye-popping when compared to what the 49ers spent in 2010 to support Gillmor’s campaign to pass Measure J and build Levi‘s Stadium. In that campaign, Gillmor spent $5.24 million of Jed York’s money on mailers and TV ads to persuade voters to approve the measure.
At that time no eyes were popping at the amount of money being spent in a local election by an NFL team; except those of the stadium’s opponents, who were given short shrift by the media. Ironically, the council candidates the 49ers are supporting this year actively campaigned against building Levi’s Stadium in 2010.
To find out more about unraveling the labyrinth of campaign spending, visit this post on how we follow the campaign money in an election year.