Updated November 5, 2022.
If it’s true that money talks, San Francisco figures to be an extremely noisy place over the next few days.
Campaign contributions to the roughly 50 local candidates and propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot have reached almost $14 million. And if this year’s previous three elections are anything to go by, we are likely to see donations ramp up as the day of reckoning approaches.
Take a look at the graphic below to see where donors have sent their money, and which candidates and propositions have raised the most. Click each circle for more details. You can use the slider to filter by size of donor, and type names into the search bar to look up particular people or organizations.
Please note: This graphic works best on a large screen. Click here for the full-screen version.
Updated Nov. 5. Includes donors who gave over $500 across all races.
According to Ethics Commission data – which is not entirely comprehensive, as recent donations may not have been declared yet – around 12,400 donations have been made by people or organizations to one race or another. The average donation stands at $250.
A donation cap of $500 per person prevents any huge contributions to individual candidates, but donors can still give as much as they like toward propositions. And they have: roughly 90 percent of all money contributed to the 15 local propositions comes from individuals and groups that have given $10,000 or more.
Here are some of this cycle’s biggest donors.
Top individual donors
The major individual donors in November’s race are remarkably uniform. Five out of the top six donors are tech executives, and many appear to share interests in affordable housing and John F. Kennedy Drive.
Hover over highlighted propositions to see what they are.
Jeremy Stoppelman: $400,000
Stoppelman, CEO of review company Yelp and ex-engineering lead of PayPal, is currently leading the pack as the November election’s biggest donor. He lives in San Francisco and has previously donated to both Democrats and Republicans.
This cycle, he has given $300,000 to oppose Prop. I and to support Prop. J. He also gave $100,000 to Prop. D.
Diane “DeDe” Wilsey: $370,500
Wilsey is a San Francisco socialite and registered Republican. A major donor in many elections, Wilsey is chair emerita of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Wilsey has poured $210,000 into supporting Prop. I and opposing Prop. J. She has also put $100,000 toward Prop. D, $50,000 to Prop. C, and $500 towards Joe Alioto Veronese’s run for District Attorney.
John Wolthuis: $200,000
Wolthius is co-founder of tech communications company Twilio. He lives in the city and is a registered Democrat.
Wolthius has put $200,000 into Prop. D.
Zack Rosen: $152,000
Rosen is the co-founder and CEO of website platform Pantheon. He lives in San Francisco and is a registered Democrat.
He has put $101,000 into Prop. D and $40,000 in opposition to Prop. I and support of Prop. J. He also put $10,000 towards Prop. B, $500 to Matt Dorsey's District 6 campaign, and $500 to Lainie Motamedi's Board of Education campaign.
Emmett Shear: $150,000
Shear is the CEO of live-streaming service Twitch. He is a part-time partner at tech investment firm Y Combinator. He lives in San Francisco and is a registered Democrat.
He has poured $100,000 into Prop. D, alongside $50,000 in opposition to Prop. I and support of Prop. J.
Marco Zappacosta: $150,000
Zappacosta is the co-founder and CEO of Thumbtack, an app for matching workers with homeowners. He is an enthusiastic YIMBY and lives in San Francisco.
He has given $150,000 to Prop. D.
Top donor organizations
No single group has loomed over November's campaign contributions in the way political action committee Neighbors for a Better San Francisco dominated this year's recall elections, but there have still been plenty of huge donations coming from organizations like PACs, unions, and companies.
Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium LLC: $435,070
Run by John Elberling, this LLC is a subsidiary of the Tenants and Owners Development Corporation. The group is a frequent and influential donor on housing initiatives.
It put $384,070 into Prop. K, which was ultimately removed from the ballot by a judge. It also put $51,000 into Prop. M.
Corporation Of The Fine Arts Museums: $402,330
The Corporation of the Fine Arts Museums has put all of its $402,330 donation into supporting Prop. I and opposing Prop. J, which would result in JFK Drive being opened up to cars again. One of its museums, the de Young, is located a stone’s throw from JFK Drive.
This campaign also received $200,000 from Diane Wilsey, chair emerita of the Fine Arts Museums.
Friends of the SF Public Library: $400,000
This 61-year-old advocacy group for San Francisco’s Public Library has poured $400,000 into Prop. F.
SF Building & Construction Trades Council: $334,000
This council represents 32 Bay Area building and construction trade unions.
It has put $285,000 toward Prop. E, $17,500 toward Prop. L, $10,000 toward Prop. O, and $20,000 in opposition to Prop. B. It has also sent $500 each to Honey Mahogany, Gordon Mar, and Susan Solomon.
Building & Construction Trades Council Of California: $325,000
This state council is affiliated with the local SF Building & Construction Trades Council. It represents nearly half a million construction workers, according to their website.
It has put $325,000 toward Prop. E.
Northern California Carpenters Regional Council: $308,396
This labor union represents roughly 37,000 workers in Northern California, and has 22 local chapters.
It has given $207,896 in favor of Prop. D, $100,000 in favor of Prop. L, and $500 to Gordon Mar's campaign.
Races to watch
There is a veritable smörgåsbord of candidates and measures on the menu this election cycle. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the more high-profile races.
The affordable housing showdown
Updated Nov. 5. Shows Prop. D and Prop. E donors who gave $500 or more across all races.
Propositions D and E ostensibly have an identical goal: increasing affordable housing in San Francisco by offering an expedited building track for developers. Despite their similarities, these dueling propositions have sparked fierce political debate and a raft of conflicting donations.
Prop. D, which is backed by Mayor London Breed, Sen. Scott Wiener, and a slew of tech money, would shorten the deadline for certain types of housing projects to be approved; specifically, those with 100-percent affordable units, those with 15 percent extra below-market-rate units than is already required by the city, and those reserved for teachers. It would also remove the requirement that the Board of Supervisors approve affordable housing projects that use city resources, and would allow some pricier housing to be streamlined.
Prop. E, which is backed by the Board of Supervisors, the building trades, and the firefighters and teachers unions, is similar, but has a higher threshold for how many affordable units are required. It retains environmental reviews, which are waived in Prop. D, and requires that construction begins within 24 months of a project’s approval. And, while Prop. D requires that workers are paid a “prevailing wage” and are afforded health and educational benefits, Prop. E additionally requires that they are “skilled and trained,” a condition likely to favor union workers.
Critics of Prop. D argue that it does not push for enough affordable housing to ease the city’s crisis. Its proponents say that the higher affordable unit threshold of E will make the track unaffordable to developers.
“San Francisco is experiencing an affordability and displacement crisis due to an under production of housing affordable to people at all income levels,” said Marco Zappacosta, CEO of Thumbtack and $150,000 donor to Prop. D. He called Prop. E a “sham measure placed on the ballot by the anti-housing Board of Supervisors in an attempt to trick voters.”
“We should take a victory lap that everyone is agreeing to some form of streamlining,” said Rudy Gonzalez, secretary-treasurer of the San Francisco Building & Construction Trades Council, which has donated $285,000 towards Prop. E.
Gonzalez said that either proposition would likely increase housing, but that he believed E would lead to more affordable units, a shorter period between approval and breaking ground on a project, and favorable conditions for the workers he represents.
“We took the input and technical advice of developers who built in San Francisco,” he added. “This is a good-faith attempt to signal to the markets that they can build here.”
If both propositions win more than 50 percent of the vote, only the one with the most votes will pass. So far, Prop. D has raised $2.62 million compared to Prop. E’s $940,000. A committee dedicated purely to opposing Prop. E has also raised $20,000.
JFK or not JFK
Updated Nov. 5. Shows Prop. I and Prop. J donors who gave $500 or more across all races.
Golden Gate Park’s JFK Drive was closed to cars during the pandemic, and the Board of Supervisors voted to make the closure permanent in April.
Prop. I would see JFK Drive reopened to cars, and would ensure that the Upper Great Highway, part of which is currently undergoing intense erosion, would be shored up at great cost so that it can stay open to cars forever. Prop. J would ensure JFK Drive remains carless.
Prop. J has pulled ahead in funding: Prop. I has collected $715,666 while Prop. J has collected $947,379.
Some 86 percent of Prop. I’s funding comes from the Fine Arts Museums Corporation or from Diane Wilsey, the museums’ chair emerita. One of the group’s museums, the de Young, is located along JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park. Prop. J has attracted a broader base, with some 80 donors giving over $500 and several tech CEOs making large contributions.
The race for District Attorney
Updated Nov. 5. Shows donors to District Attorney candidates who gave $500 or more across all races.
Four candidates have put themselves forward to be San Francisco’s next District Attorney.
Incumbent Brooke Jenkins, who was appointed by Breed after the recall of Chesa Boudin, is comfortably leading in donations with $256,205. Former police commissioner John Hamasaki has raised $143,694, while attorney and former police commissioner Joe Alioto Veronese trails with $141,525. Dark horse Maurice Chenier has not raised any donations, according to city data.
While hardly peanuts, this spending is dwarfed by the sums raised to remove Boudin over the summer. Because that was a ballot measure rather than a race between candidates, the spending limit of $500 per donor did not apply. As a result, nearly $7.3 million was marshaled against Boudin and $3.5 million was spent trying to keep him in office.
Supervisorial challenges in Districts 4 and 6
Updated Nov. 5. Shows donors to District 4 and 6 candidates who gave $500 or more across all races.
All the even-numbered supervisorial districts are on the ballot this year. Looking at the campaign finances so far, it seems as though the main contests will be found in Districts 4 and 6.
In District 4, Gordon Mar is aiming to hold off challenger Joel Engardio. Mar and Engardio are neck-and-neck in donations, with $164,894 and $164,882 respectively. Some supporters of this year’s recalls rallied to Engardio, but others directed money toward Leanna Louie, who gathered $41,544 before being struck from the ballot for failing to establish legal domicile in the district.
In District 6, Honey Mahogany has overtaken appointed incumbent Matt Dorsey, with $250,003 compared to $222,697.
The data in this article is from the San Francisco Ethics Commission. Its data is updated each weekday. However, donations do not appear immediately, due to campaign filing deadlines; small donations may take weeks to be tallied.
The numbers in this article reflect donations alone, and do not include other sources of funds, such as public financing. We intend to keep this article and interactive graphic updated until the Nov. 8 election. For more details on what will appear on the ballot, see the Department of Elections website.
If you spot any errors or have suggestions on improving how this information is presented, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional reporting by Chuqin Jiang.