Two Santa Clara business heavyweights–Related Santa Clara and the San Francisco 49ers–are in opposite corners of the campaign for mayor, kicking off the fall campaigns of Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Councilmember Anthony Becker with big donations.
Related Santa Clara, the developer of the massive residential-commercial project near Levi’s Stadium this week contributed $100,000 to Gillmor’s reelection campaign through a newly established independent committee according to campaign documents filed late Thursday.
The contributions to the “Committee to Support Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Good Government, sponsored by Santa Clara’s Affordable Home and Job Creators” came from Related California Residential LLC and Related Santa Clara LLC,
Related Santa Clara is the sole sponsor of the committees. Related’s chairman and largest shareholder, Stephen M. Ross, came under fire in 2019 for hosting a $12 million fundraiser for Donald Trump at his Hamptons, Long Island home and recently spent $550,000 to attack progressive Democratic candidates in New York. Another Ross company, Ladder Capital, provided $275 million in loans to Trump properties.
The 49ers’ independent expenditures for Becker dwarf Related’s efforts on behalf of Gillmor, whose father was also a Santa Clara mayor and enjoys high name recognition, as well as the benefits of incumbency.
The National Football League franchise created several committees to direct money from the NFL football team to support Becker and two Becker allies on the council seeking re-election, Karen Hardy and Raj Chahal.
“Frustrated Santa Clarans Opposing Gillmor for Mayor 2022” is sponsored by “DeBartolo Corp. and Affiliated Entities, including 49ers Football Company Inc., and “Santa Clara Community Leaders Supporting Anthony Becker for Mayor 2022,” sponsored by and with major funding from DeBartolo Corp. and the 49ers.
The 49ers-sponsored committees for Becker reported spending contributions of $368,557 from the team, with $200 in other contributions as of last week, according to campaign documents filed with the Santa Clara City Clerk. Total new 49ers contributions for Becker and council candidates for the November elections are approximately $750,000.
In an email statement to San Jose Inside, Becker said: “This is all news to me, I have no clue what is going on and frankly I have no control over Independent Expenditures, just like I have no control over IE’s that are anti-Anthony Becker.
“What I do have control over is meeting residents going door to door and earning our community’s vote to be our next mayor.
“The only support I want is from Santa Clarans. My hope is that there's no political spending by any entity including developers or the 49ers.”
Rahul Chandhok, spokesman for the 49ers, said in a statement, "We are proud to support this diverse set of candidates who are dedicated to fixing the $27 million deficit created by Mayor Gillmor and her political machine, which has been funded for decades by billionaire developers, at the expense of public-school teachers, affordable housing and voting rights.”
Related has secured but not broken ground on an $8 billion development in Santa Clara. Gillmor has been a strong advocate of the Related development, which sparked a now-resolved lawsuit between San Jose and Santa Clara.
Related Santa Clara promises the construction of 5.7 million square feet of office space, more than 7,000 residential units, two hotels with 700 rooms, 200,000 square feet of restaurants and a 35-acre park in northeast Santa Clara.
Because the contributions were to an independent committee and not directly to the campaign, the donors were able to avoid the limits on individual contributions, a common practice in local elections.
In the 2020 council elections, Related Santa Clara gave to all council candidates.