Money talks - Page 2

The top 10 political donors in San Francisco

This past November, the COJ also backed the Community Justice Court Coalition, formed to pass Proposition L, which would have guaranteed first-year funding for Mayor Gavin Newsom's small-crimes court in the Tenderloin. Prop. L failed by 57 percent.

Bluegrass billionaire. San Francisco investment banker and billionaire Warren Hellman has dropped nearly $1.2 million over the years into local political campaigns, our results show. Dubbed "the Warren Buffet of the West Coast" by Business Week for his sharp financial prowess, Hellman co-founded Hellman and Friedman, an investment firm, in 1984. Hellman is known for putting on Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, an annual SF music festival. While he tends to contribute to downtown business entities such as the Committee on Jobs and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, in 2008 he devoted $100,000 to supporting a June ballot measure, Proposition A, that increased teacher salaries and classroom support by instating a parcel tax to amp up funding for public schools.

Fisher king. Don Fisher, founder and former CEO of Gap, Inc., is another one of SF's resident billionaires. While Gap, Inc. turns up in 17th place in our results, Fisher himself has poured more than $1.1 million into entities such as the Committee on Jobs, SFSOS, the San Franciscans for Sensible Government Political Action Committee, and other conservative business groups. Fisher's total includes money from the "DDF Y2K family trust," a Fisher family fund that shows up in Ethics records in 2000. In that year, $100,000 from that trust went to support the Committee on Jobs' candidate advocacy fund, and another $40,000 went to a pro-development group called San Franciscans for Responsible Planning.

Not a very affordable campaign, either. Sixth up is Lennar Homes, the developer behind the massive home-building project at Hunters Point Shipyard, which the Guardian has covered extensively. The vast majority of its $1 million reported spending was directed to No on Prop. F, a campaign sponsored by Lennar to defeat a June ballot measure that would have created a 50 percent affordable-housing requirement for the Candlestick Point and Hunters Point Shipyard development project. The measure failed, with 63 percent voting it down.

Chuck's bucks. Charles Schwab Corp., which set up shop in San Francisco in the mid-1970s, is an investment banking firm that reports having $1.1 trillion in total client assets. The corporation ranks seventh in our Top 30 list, with some $973,000 in donations. In 27th place is Charles R. Schwab himself, the company's founder and chairman of the board (and the guy they're referring to in those "Talk to Chuck" billboards posted all over SF). If Schwab's individual and corporate donations were combined, the total would be enough to bump Warren Hellman out of fourth place. Schwab's dollars are infused into the Committee on Jobs, the San Francisco Association of Realtors, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, SF SOS, and other downtown-business interest organizations. "We're a major company here in the Bay Area and a major employer," company spokesperson Greg Gable told the Guardian. "We're interested in political matters across the board — it's not limited to any one party." But it's limited to one pro-downtown point of view.

The brass. The San Francisco Police Officer's Association is another major player, spending some $913,000 since 1998 on political campaigns. The organization backed candidates Carmen Chu, Myrna Lim, Joseph Alioto, Denise McCarthy, and Sue Lee for supervisors in 2008, contributions show. All but Chu lost.

At your service. SEIU Local 1021 and SEIU 790 crop up frequently in Ethics data, with a grand total of about $860,000 in spending over the years.