Charter School Advocates Spend Record High in CA Governor’s Race

Alec Saslow | May 29, 2018

A political committee backed by wealthy donors who support charter schools has spent more than $15 million on the California governor’s race -- the most by any single independent expenditure committee in a California governor’s race since online data has been available, according to a MapLight analysis.

The committee, “Families & Teachers for Antonio Villaraigosa for Governor 2018,” has spent roughly $14.5 million to support former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and another $1.1 million to oppose Republican John Cox.  

Recent polling shows a close race for second place between Villaraigosa and Cox, with both candidates trailing Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.  The top two candidates from the June 5 primary will face off in the November general election.

Villaraigosa’s own campaign committee has raised $7.8 million, roughly half as much as the independent expenditure committee backed by megadonors who can make unlimited contributions to outside groups. Six wealthy political donors have written seven-figure checks to the pro-charter school committee, including contributions of $7 million from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings; $2.5 million from entrepreneur Eli Broad; $2.5 million from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; and $2 million from investor William Oberndorf.

Although national attention on outside spending and super PACs increased with the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC ruling, spending by outside groups has played an important role in California politics since Proposition 34 in 2000 placed limits on contributions to candidates but exempted outside groups.

Only two other committees have spent even half as much on a governor’s race as the pro-charter group backing Villaraigosa, and the pro-charter organization still has nearly $2 million remaining in its treasury. In 2006, a committee backed by real estate developer Angelo Tsakopoulos spent almost $10 million to support former California Treasurer Phil Angelides’ unsuccessful run for governor.  In 2010, a committee backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) spent more than $8 million to support Gov. Jerry Brown in a campaign against billionaire Meg Whitman.

Click here to download the data from MapLight’s analysis of independent spending in California governor’s races.


MapLight analysis of independent expenditures supporting or opposing California gubernatorial candidates since 2001, retrieved from the independent expenditure power search on May 21.