Alex Spanos, one of the nation's foremost Republican benefactors, has contributed $20,000 to Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown's gubernatorial campaign — two years after Brown immersed himself in land-use policies in Spanos' hometown.
Brown opposed Spanos in a dispute in 2008 that caused the developer to alter plans for a massive subdivision in Stockton. Through a settlement, Brown's office continues to monitor environmental policies affecting Spanos and other developers in that city.
The donation from Spanos, an owner of the San Diego Chargers, remains unusual.
He has given millions of dollars to Republican causes, and he was a top fundraiser for President George W. Bush and former presidential candidate John McCain. He has given more than $6 million to the California Republican Party since 2001. He also was a strong supporter of Republican Pete Wilson, a former San Diego mayor, U.S. senator and governor, who is chairing the campaign of current GOP nominee Meg Whitman.
Though Spanos hosted Whitman and other members of the GOP ticket at his Stockton estate in June, the fundraiser was for the state Republican Party. He has not opened his wallet to Whitman. Among the attendees at the event was Republican Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, to whom Spanos gave $6,500 in April.
Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford said Brown has known Spanos since before Brown became governor in 1975, and that "he's just stayed friendly with the family since."
Bob Benedetti, a political science professor at University of the Pacific in Stockton, said the Spanos organization is more pragmatic than ideological in its political activities.
"He must have a feeling that Brown may win, and it's important for him to be on the right side," Benedetti said. "He and his family need to do things in the state that sometimes they need governmental help for."
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