The Billionaire Winners—And Losers—Of The Failed California Recall Election

By Michela Tindera, Forbes Staff
California Governor Gavin Newsom and the largest donor to his recall effort, Netflix cofounder and CEO Reed Hastings. Jeff Chiu/AP, Ernesto S. Ruscio/Netflix/Getty Images

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s victory in the state’s September 14 recall election was helped by the overwhelming support of billionaires. Of the 28 billionaire donors that Forbes identified who donated to the recall’s largest campaign finance committees, 26 supported keeping Newsom in office. Together these donors poured $9.2 million into two committees opposing the recall (the two committees received more than $67 million in total contributions). Meanwhile, the largest committees in favor of the governor’s recall received only $250,000 in total contributions from two billionaires. 

Among the largest donors opposing the recall: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings (who donated $3 million), Connie Ballmer, who is married to Los Angeles Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer ($1 million), and Priscilla Chan, the wife of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg ($750,000). Some of these donors gave even more to Newsom’s own gubernatorial campaign committee—contributions not tallied in this article. For example, Hastings and his wife have donated at least $124,000 to the Newsom For California Governor 2022 committee, according to state filings.   

“Many of California's billionaires come from the technology sector,” Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College, told Forbes in July. “They see Democrats as more sympathetic to science and international trade. They are leery of Republican positions on social issues and immigration.”

Still, a couple of billionaire supporters of the recall did hail from Silicon Valley, too. Chamath Palihapitiya, the founder of VC firm Social Capital, gave $200,000 to two committees supporting the recall efforts, and Douglas Leone, who is a managing partner at venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, gave $50,000 to one of the committees supporting the recall.    

Here’s a closer look at the donors—billionaires and their spouses—that Forbes found, according to a review of state filings of committees that raised at least $1 million in the recall efforts. 

Donors Who Opposed The Recall


Reed Hastings

Contributions: $3 million 

Source of wealth: Netflix

Net worth: $5.6B


Connie Ballmer, wife of Steve Ballmer 

Contributions: $1 million 

Source of wealth: Microsoft 

Net worth: $97B

George Marcus

Contributions: $1 million

Source of wealth: Real Estate

Net worth: $1.6B


George Soros

Contributions: $1 million 

Source of wealth: Hedge Funds

Net worth: $8.6B

Priscilla Chan, wife of Mark Zuckerberg 

Contributions: $750,000 

Source of wealth: Facebook

Net worth: $131.8B


Laurene Powell Jobs

Contributions: $400,000 

Source of wealth: Apple, Disney

Net worth: $21.4B

Lynda and Stewart Resnick

Contributions: $250,000

Source of wealth: Agriculture, Water

Net worth: $8B


Doris Fisher

Contributions: $250,000

Source of wealth: Gap

Net worth: $2.7B

Jim Simons

Contributions: $250,000

Source of wealth: Hedge Funds 

Net worth: $24.4B

Eric Schmidt

Contributions: $195,000

Source of wealth: Google 

Net worth: $23.7B


Stanley Tang

Contributions: $166,666

Source of wealth: Food Delivery App (DoorDash)

Net worth: $2.8B

Andy Fang

Contributions: $166,666

Source of wealth: Food Delivery App (DoorDash) 

Net worth: $2.7B

Susan Pritzker, wife of Nicholas Pritzker 

Contributions: $100,000

Source of wealth: Hotels, Investments

Net worth: $2.8B


Jeff and Erica Lawson

Contributions: $200,000

Source of wealth: Software

Net worth: $2.2B

Gordon Getty

Contributions: $100,000

Source of wealth: Getty Oil

Net worth: $2.1B

Eric Smidt

Contributions: $100,000

Source of wealth: Hardware stores

Net worth: $5.6B


Evan Williams

Contributions: $50,000

Source of wealth: Twitter

Net worth: $2.4B


John Pritzker

Contributions: $50,000 

Source of wealth: Hotels, Investments

Net worth: $2.7B

Haim Saban

Contributions: $50,000

Source of wealth: TV network, Investments

Net worth: $3.1B

M. Jude Reyes

Contributions: $50,000

Source of wealth: Food Distribution 

Net worth: $7.1B


J. Christopher Reyes

Contributions: $50,000

Source of wealth: Food Distribution 

Net worth: $7.1B

Steven Spielberg

Contributions: $25,000

Source of wealth: Movies

Net worth: $3.7B

Duke Reyes

Contributions: $25,000 

Source of wealth: Beer Distribution

Net worth: $1.2B


Dagmar Dolby

Contributions: $10,000

Source of wealth: Dolby Laboratories

Net worth: $5.5B

Donors Who Supported The Recall


Chamath Palihapitiya

Contributions: $200,000 

Source of wealth: Facebook, Venture Capital

Net worth: $1.1B


Douglas Leone 

Contributions: $50,000 

Source of wealth: Venture Capital

Net worth: $8B

This post was updated on September 15, 2021 at 4:24 p.m. to add another billionaire donor, Eric Smidt, confirmed by Forbes.


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