High Society Money Got Newsom to High Places

The Los Angeles Times has an excellent new exposé on Gavin Newsom’s decades of donations from San Francisco’s wealthiest old-money families.

Jessica Christian, SF Examiner

Democratic candidate for California governor Gavin Newsom was not born into wealth. But he quickly became a favorite son of the city’s richest families, even before Willie Brown appointed him to an obscure City Hall position in 1996. The Los Angeles Times  has a detailed rundown of all the contributions Gavin Newsom has received from San Francisco’s wealthiest families, going back to his time on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1997.

The Times refers to Newsom’s longtime mega-donors as “San Francisco society’s ‘first families’ — whose names grace museum galleries, charity ball invitations and hospital wards.” You know them as high society bigwigs like the Getty family, the Fisher family who founded The Gap, and the Traina family that produced President Trump’s current ambassador to Austria and socialite Dede Wilsey who stepped down as board president of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco over an improper payments scandal in 2016.

The Gettys were Newsom’s original cash source, since before he went into politics. Oil tycoon J. Paul Getty’s son Gordon was an investor in Newsom’s wine store PlumpJack, and Gavin was a close friend of the family as his father Bill managed the family’s trust.

According to the Times, “Bill Newsom was so close with the family that he helped deliver the ransom money after the 1973 kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson, John Paul Getty III.”

The Gettys have given Newsom more than a half a million dollars in his various campaigns for the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco mayor, lieutenant governor, and now for governor. But they haven’t given Gavin the most. That distinction belongs to the Hyatt Hotel-founding Pritzker family, who’ve donated more than $600,000 to Newsom campaigns since 1997.

Other heavy hitters include the Fisher family of The Gap fame, the prominent Swig family (that includes President Reagan’s Secretary of State George Schultz), and the Esprit and North Coast co-founding Buell family.

Most of these families knew Newsom since his high school days in Larkspur. Democratic mega-donor Susie Tompkins Buell told the Times, “He went through a cocky stage, and then an arrogant stage. Now he’s in a total serving stage. He paid his dues, I’ll tell you.”

That’s right, when you’re Gavin Newsom, you have a cocky stage and an arrogant stage.

Longtime San Franciscans will recall that Newsom was not originally elected to the Board of Supervisors. He was appointed by Willie Brown in 1997, then re-elected in 1998. Newsom hasn’t lost a race since, being twice elected mayor and lieutenant governor. And with high-placed friends like these, don’t be surprised to see Newsom keep running for higher offices even if he’s elected governor this November.

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