SACRAMENTO — 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 2008 dispute that caused the developer to alter plans for a large subdivision in Stockton. Through a settlement, Brown's office continues to monitor environmental policies affecting Spanos and other developers in Stockton.
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 fund-raiser 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.
Although Spanos hosted Whitman and other members of the GOP ticket at his Stockton estate in June, the fund-raiser 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.
'Friendly with the family'
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 the 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."
Natalia Orfanos, a Spanos spokeswoman, said neither Spanos nor his company, A.G. Spanos Cos., publicly discuss political donations.
Spanos, 86, is in declining health and no longer is involved in the company's operations.
Spanos, who helped Gov. Schwarzenegger win election in 2003 and re-election three years later, is one of more than 150 donors who contributed to the Republican governor in 2006 and to Brown this year. Almost three times as many Schwarzenegger donors are staying with the GOP, donating to Whitman.
Spanos supported Brown financially when he first ran for governor in 1974, including a $10,000 loan and $3,200 in "airplane costs."
He did not contribute to Brown's 2006 bid for attorney general. Instead, he backed Republican Chuck Poochigian.
Two years later, as attorney general, Brown interceded in a dispute in Stockton over a growth plan that called for the city's population to about double by 2035, mostly in subdivisions at the city limit.
Environmentalists sued to block the plan, and Brown threatened to join them in court.
Brown met with city officials, and the two sides reached a settlement requiring Stockton to consider measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of sprawl on the environment.
City officials have consulted with Brown's office about those measures, and the office is monitoring their implementation.
The agreement was detrimental to Spanos Cos.' plan to build a subdivision on the city's north side. The company financed a brief campaign to force a referendum on the agreement, then abandoned it and switched course: Promoting itself as a company with a new thoughtfulness about the environment, it recast its planned subdivision to be more palatable to environmentalists, met with slow-growth activists and sponsored forums on environmental sustainability.