The September Sunnyvale City Council campaign reports show almost $300,000 already poured into next month’s election when independent expenditure money is added in.
About 65 percent of that money has come from donors outside Sunnyvale. In fact, if you didn’t know this was a Sunnyvale election, the donor lists of the candidates with the biggest war chests would suggest that it was a state or regional election.
Sunnyvale City Council Seat 1 incumbent Gustav Larsson leads the Sunnyvale money race with $103,000 in donations. Second is Mayor (Seat 2) Glenn Hendricks with $80,000. Newcomer Mason Fong running for Seat 3 is third in donations with $64,800.
All other candidates currently have received $25,000 or less.
Seat 1 Challenger Henry Alexander
Alexander has raised $8,000 from 26 donors — including a $400 loan to himself — 100 percent from individuals and Sunnyvale residents. The average Alexander donation is $308, with the most common donation being $100 (13).
Alexander has no business, interest group or PAC donations or independent expenditures. Despite having exponentially less money than his opponent, Alexander has more Sunnyvale donors — 26 to Larsson’s 17.
Seat 1 Incumbent Gustav Larsson
Larsson has $69,300 in his war chest — an unpaid loan shown on his current reports is a carry-over from his 2013 campaign.* Most of Larsson’s donors are from out of town (70 percent). The average Larsson donation is $1,750, with $500 being the most common (9).
Two PACs — SUNPAC and Silicon Valley Association of Realtors (SILVAR) — have donated directly to Larsson’s campaign. A third PAC, the California Apartment Association PAC, has made $4,800 in independent expenditures on Larsson’s behalf.
Although most of Larsson’s donors are individuals, many are individuals in development and real estate-related businesses.
Among Larsson’s donors are real estate moguls like Gary Gillmor, John and Stephen Vidovich, and Jay Paul, who currently has several development projects before the Sunnyvale Council. Regis McKenna, a retired technology marketer, also donated to Larsson’s campaign.
Also on Larsson’s donor list are mobile home park operator Brandenburg, Staedtler & Moore, the IBEW 332 Education Fund, Water Board Member Gary Kremen, Classic Communities VP James Pollart and San José lobbyist Jim Cunneen.
Cunneen is the President of Silicon Valley Organization — the renamed Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce — and lobbies for Irvine, a major developer and property management company in California as well as in the Bay Area.
Seat 2 Challenger Josh Grossman
Sunnyvale Seat 2 candidate Josh Grossman has raised $5,900, all of it from individuals. Grossman’s donor base is largely from Sunnyvale (68 percent) — almost the mirror opposite of his opponent, Glenn Hendricks. Grossman has no donations from businesses or PACs, nor independent PAC expenditures.
The average Grossman donation is $236, and the most common one is $100.
Seat 2 Incumbent Glenn Hendricks
Seat 2 incumbent and current Mayor Hendricks has raised a hefty $80,000, which includes a $30,000 loan from himself. Hendricks’ average donation is $1,283 while his most common donation is $500. The California Apartment Association has made $4,800 in independent expenditures for Hendricks.
While over 90 percent of Hendricks’ donors are individuals, it’s a list that mirrors Larsson’s: McKenna, Gillmor, Vidovich, Paul, Cunneen, Pollart and Kremen. Hendricks’ direct donors also include six PACs: SUNPAC, SILVAR, the IBEW 332 Education Fund, the Apartment Association PAC, the San Francisco-based Lincoln Club of Northern California PAC and the Build Jobs PAC.
Hendricks’s donor list also includes mobile home park operator Brandenburg, Staedtler & Moore and Zanotto’s Market.
Open Seat 3 Candidate John Cordes
Vying to replace termed-out Council Member in Seat 3, John Cordes has raised $24,600 including a $10,000 loan to himself. All of Cordes’ donations come from Sunnyvale residents and none come from businesses, political groups, developers, lobbyists or PACs. The average Cordes donation is $647, with the most common being $100.
Although he has only 26 donors to opponent Mason Fong’s 52, Cordes’ 26 Sunnyvale donors outnumber Fong’s 18.
Open Seat 3 Candidate Mason Fong
First time candidate Mason Fong has raised $65,800, including a $500 loan to himself. A majority (65 percent) of those donations come from outside Sunnyvale.
Fong also leads in independent expenditures, with independent expenditures by the California Apartment Association PAC ($9,500) and the National Association of Realtors ($29,000). Fong’s average direct donation is $277, with the most common $100 being the most common Fong donation.
Fong’s big tent of donors includes progressive political organizations, developers and developer PACs, and local politicians.
Fong counts the most PACs and political organizations in his corner — a total of 10, crossing the political spectrum: Asian Americans for Good Government PAC, API Empowerment PAC, Young API Democrats of California, Build Jobs PAC, AT&T California Employee PAC, California Real Estate PAC (CREPAC), Peninsula Democratic Coalition, IFPTE Local 21 TJ Anthony PAC, California Apartment Association PAC, National Association of Realtors PAC and Sunnyvale Employees PAC.
Local politicians also make a big showing among Mason’s donors, including Kremen, Foothill-DeAnza Community College District Trustee Gilbert Wong, State Assemblyman Evan Low, County Supervisor Norman Yee, Mountain View City Council Member Margaret Abe-Koga and former State Assemblyman Paul Fong.
Not only are developer PACs donating to Fong, the developers themselves are also backing Fong financially, including Gillmor, Vidovich, McKenna, Paul and Irvine lobbyist Cunneen.
Correction: In an earlier version of this article we stated Regis McKenna was a real estate mogul. McKenna is actually a retired technology marketer. The article has been updated to correct the error. Thank you to Mr. McKenna for reaching out to us and pointing out the mistake.
*In our original report on the Sunnyvale campaign money, we reported a $34,000 loan from Gustav Larsson to his own campaign, which while accounting-wise correct is not real-world correct.
The loan was made to Larsson’s 2013 campaign and was carried forward because it hasn’t yet been repaid. Because Larsson is using the same committee ID as the 2013 campaign, it can be reported with the current campaign finances. The money was spent in 2013 and isn’t available for this campaign.
“It is permissible under certain situations for a local candidate to redesignate a campaign committee from one election to another election for the same office,” explained Fair Political Practices Commission spokesman Jay Wierenga in an email.
“When they do this, the ID number, cash balances and debt are carried forward,” he said. “We obviously prefer over reporting [to] under reporting.”