Washington state resident gives $1 million to fight recall

Ballots that will be mailed to voters across California for the Sept. 14 recall election. (Photo: Sheila Fitzgerald, via Shutterstock)

A million-dollar donation to fight the recall effort against Gov. Gavin Newsom came from Washington state, not California, and from a name familiar in the world of finance and high tech.

Connie Ballmer, who is married to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, contributed $1 million to Newsom’s campaign, the second-largest donation thus far to the anti-recall effort. The largest came from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, at $3 million.

Connie Ballmer, who lives in Bellevue, Wash., donated the $1 million on July 29, according to the secretary of state.

So who is Connie Ballmer?

Then Connie Snyder, she graduated the University of Oregon with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, then went into public relations and communications for tech companies in the 1980s and 90s.

In 1990, she married Steve Ballmer, then a division manager at Microsoft. Steve Ballmer would go on to become the CEO of the company from 2000 to 2014. The couple co-founded and now head the Ballmer Group, an organization focused on promoting economic mobility across the United States.

Today, Connie Ballmer is a board member of the Obama Foundation, Strive Together, and the Clippers Foundation. Steve Ballmer owns the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers.

With her husband, much of Ballmer’s work today is geared towards organizations to promote economic opportunity throughout the country.

In Washington state, Connie Ballmer has supported several Democrat- and progressive-backed ballot measures, including one calling for “democracy dollars” —  the public financing of political campaigns pushed by presidential contender Andrew Yang last year. She has also supported universal background checks for firearms purchases.

Unlike other elections, there are no limits on contributions to the target of the recall, Gov. Gavin Newsom. There are donation limits on campaigns seeking the recall.

As the recall campaigns enter their final weeks, contributions and spending have increased sharply.

The pro-Newsom campaign has raised about $51 million, and its principal committee had an ending cash balance of $26 million as of July 31. Several other pro-Newsom groups, including labor coalitions, raised about $3 million.

Backers of the recall have raised about $6 million.

The election is Sept. 14, although ballots will be mailed to voters by Aug. 16.  The ballot poses two questions. First, “Do you want to recall Gov. Newsom?”  Second, “If the governor is recalled, who do you want to replace him?”

If 50% or more vote no on the first question, the governor remains in office. If more than 50 percent vote yes on the first question, then the person with the most votes  from the second question becomes governor.

Editor’s Note: Grady Thomson is a Capitol Weekly intern from UC Merced.

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