OAKLAND — Gov. Gavin Newsom relied on $80,000 from a donor-connected foundation, along with complimentary use of Dodger Stadium, to deliver a splashy State of the State speech this week that offered a defense against a mounting recall effort.
The Democratic governor departed from convention by delivering his annual address not to elected officials at the state Capitol but in an empty Dodger Stadium under the lights. A Newsom representative said the Dodgers provided the venue — an in-kind contribution whose value has not yet been specified — and that production costs were covered by the California State Protocol Foundation.
The California State Protocol Foundation previously has paid for various official functions for California governors that go beyond what taxpayers might consider reasonable state expenditures. It has covered foreign travel for both Newsom and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example.
“The Protocol Foundation has long paid for state official functions and ceremonies, such as dignitary receptions, the annual tree lighting ceremony and bill signings,” Newsom spokesperson Erin Mellon said in an email.
Newsom’s own inaugural fund has contributed $3.1 million to the foundation since 2019. The inaugural fund itself originally relied on sizable contributions from interest groups. The largest donors gave $200,000 each, including the California Teachers Association, the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and former San Diego Padres owner Jennifer Moores.
Blue Shield of California, which Newsom’s Department of Public Health recently tasked with overseeing California’s vaccine rollout, gave $100,000. So did major labor unions and other tribes.
Newsom’s State of the State speech read to many like a political speech rather than a policy-specific vision, with high production values that included video footage illustrating his talking points. It was widely seen as the de facto launch of Newsom’s effort to beat back a recall campaign. The governor defended his record on the coronavirus pandemic and projected better times to come, previewing likely campaign themes.
Bolstering that interpretation, the governor on Friday tweeted out a slickly produced video showcasing his speech. “We know this year hasn’t been easy. But hope is here,” Newsom wrote.