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Politics & Policy

Biden’s Bay Area mega donors: Here’s a list of top campaign contributors

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden walk on the south lawn of the White House on June 27, 2021. | Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Joe Biden’s campaign spent the last week touting a $72 million fundraising haul for the second quarter of this year—a number that wouldn’t have been possible without tapping into the Bay Area’s vaunted political ATM.

On June 19, Biden launched a whirlwind two-day fundraising tour starting with an afternoon gathering in Los Gatos co-hosted by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. Then the president headed up the Peninsula to venture capitalist Steve Westly’s exclusive party in Atherton. The next day, the president made his way to San Francisco to discuss artificial intelligence with Gov. Gavin Newsom and tech leaders before getting into the chopper to drop in on another campaign soiree in Marin County.

President Joe Biden speaks during a discussion on managing the risks of artificial intelligence during an event in San Francisco on June 20, 2023, as California Gov. Gavin Newsom listens. | Susan Walsh/AP

By the time Air Force One whisked Biden from the Bay Area back to the White House, his campaign had cashed in to the tune of $10 million, according to statements made by Jeffrey Katzenberg, the longtime Hollywood producer and Biden campaign co-chair.

The Standard reviewed newly released campaign records to find that the cast of Bay Area characters throwing max donations to the president’s personal campaign—as well as six-figure sums to support committees working toward Biden’s reelection—includes a who’s-who of Bay Area tech founders, venture capitalists and real estate investors.

Here are some of the more interesting takeaways.

‘They Want the Relationship’

For the moment, Biden’s top Bay Area backer isn’t a tech executive but rather billionaire hedge fund investor Nathaniel Simons, who lives in Berkeley. The Standard’s review of campaign data found that Simons plopped down $806,715 during the second quarter of 2023, ranking fifth among all Californians supporting Biden during that time.

The Biden campaign draws from several organizations to fund operations: Biden’s personal campaign account, the Democratic National Committee and three different joint fundraising committees. Individual candidates are only allowed to receive a maximum of $6,600 per person, so the big money rolls into the national party and joint committees—the Biden Victory Fund, Biden Action Fund and Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund—where limits don’t apply.

That $72 million windfall came across those five entities, said Kevin Muñoz, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign.

President Joe Biden greets children as he attends the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 10, 2023. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images | Source: Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Other notable donors who gave to Biden’s personal campaign but also topped $100,000 in total contributions to support Biden’s extended stay in the White House include: Hoffman, of LinkedIn ($706,200); venture capitalist John Doerr and his wife, Ann ($426,200 each); Westly, who’s also a former state controller ($154,500); Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix ($147,900); Square GM David Rusenko ($147,900); Lyft co-founder Logan Green ($106,600); and billionaire real estate broker George Marcus ($106,600).

The size of these contributions suggests the top donors were donating to the Democratic Party and probably got some face time during Biden’s visit. The reasons why someone would shell out this much money can vary.

“If you’re a billionaire, it’s like a couple hundred bucks,” said Jim Ross, a San Francisco political consultant who worked on presidential campaigns for both Bill and Hillary Clinton. “It’s not like it’s a big chunk of your net worth. You’re not stretching to donate. But it puts you in the mix.”

Ross added, “They want the relationship, not necessarily anything specific. But they might want something specific down the road.”

San Francisco Comes Out Strong

Los Angeles residents gave the most money in support of Biden’s reelection in the second quarter of 2023 with $3.45 million in total contributions to all committees, just beating out San Francisco’s $3.18 million.

But a closer inspection of records shows that San Franciscans gave the most direct financial support to Biden’s personal campaign account. 

President Joe Biden greets attendees at the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center and Preserve in Palo Alto on June 19, 2023. | Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP

The president’s personal committee received almost $474,000 from 284 San Franciscans in the second quarter. Donors who maxed out at $6,600 to the president’s personal campaign included: venture capitalist Ron Conway, who also gave $100,000 to the Biden Victory Fund; Nick Josefowitz, a former SF supervisor candidate and policy director for urban planning nonprofit SPUR who did the same; and Daniel Lurie, a nonprofit founder and expected candidate for mayor of San Francisco, who gave $13,200 total.

Los Angeles residents collectively gave $317,000 to Biden’s personal campaign, people living in Palo Alto gave more than $74,000 and Oakland residents gave more than $44,000. Just 18 individuals in Ross—a posh unincorporated town in Marin County—combined to contribute nearly $84,000.

Larry Gerston, professor emeritus for San Jose State University’s political science department and a political analyst for NBC Bay Area, told The Standard that Biden’s fundraising haul shows how strongly Northern California voters support the president. 

“He has tremendous popularity in the Bay Area,” Gerston said. “I mean, he’s popular in Southern California, but if you're looking on a per-capita basis, you’ll find that he does much better here.”