Republican firebrand Carl DeMaio, the former candidate for Congress and San Diego mayor, speaks to supporters at the U.S. Grant Hotel in 2014. Photo by Chris Stone

Reform California chairman Carl DeMaio on Monday sent email calling for donations to a “Yes on Recall” campaign against Gov. Gavin Newsom, assuming 1.5 million valid signatures were collected.

“National donors will ask us how much we have raised from grassroots California supporters like you,” the note reads. “I need to show them an impressive number. Can you please contribute anything more today to the effort?”

Not impressed was Orrin Heatlie, lead proponent of the Newsom recall, which claims 2.1 million signatures.

“Carl is NOT working on our behalf and he has not contributed to the recall effort,” Heatlie told Times of San Diego on Wednesday. “It seems he [is] self-serving, helping himself to donations, without purpose or permission.”

The retired Yolo County sheriff’s sergeant asked via email: “How much has he raked in under the guise he is involved in the campaign?”

Reform California spokesman Dave McCulloch answered with a statement:

To date, Reform California has raised and spent more than $104,000 to support the recall — making it one of the largest financial contributors to the effort. While we appreciate his work and know he’s been busy, Orrin seems to be unaware of how Reform California reports its contributions to the recall.

As a general purpose ballot measure committee, Reform California does not report its contributions through other campaign committees and instead we are required to file independent expenditure reports with the state when supporting initiatives like the recall.

All of those reports are publicly available with the Secretary of State’s office and we have kept Orrin’s campaign treasurer Vona Copp and his campaign Vice Chair Mike Netter informed of our efforts. We look forward to expanding our financial support of the Recall and working with a growing coalition of groups — including Orrin’s campaign committee – to remove Gavin Newsom from office.

Heatlie, preparing for a virtual Town Hall on Wednesday night, lacked time to immediately respond.

Jay Wierenga, spokesman for the state Fair Political Practices Commission, observed that DeMaio set up his own recall committee.

“Anyone can,” Wierenga said.

The recall is two elections in one, Wierenga noted. The first would be the question of whether to remove Newsom from office.

“This is not the actual candidate election, so it is then considered like it’s a ballot measure (local ballot measures — Yes on H or the like — to raise a sales tax or whatever.) Or a Prop. 22 like a statewide ballot measure,” he said via email.

Ballot measures aren’t subject to contribution limits, so anyone can give as much as they like to any committee formed to promote the recall, Wierenga said. So DeMaio’s committee can raise as much as he wants from anyone and not be subject to a donor limit.

In the concurrent election — for Newsom’s would-be successor — committees are subject to contribution limits of the governor’s race, he said.

Newsom recall leader Orrin Heatlie addresses virtual Town Hall on Wednesday night. Image via

The FPPC has a running account of top 10 backers and foes of a Newsom recall.

According to the tally dated Monday, recall supporters have raised $3.54 million while Newsom backers have reported taking in nearly $560,000.

The leading recall fundraiser is Rescue California, the major feeder of Heatlie’s PAC, California Patriot Coalition. Heatlie’s donation site, with a $2,500 button, is here.

Reform California’s donation site for the recall also has a $2,500 button.

DeMaio’s Reform California, a 527 political action committee, calls itself “dedicated to holding state and local government accountable. We fight costly and unfair taxes, mandates, and fees because working families cannot afford a higher cost of living — and state and local politicians already have enough of our money.”

Two years ago, DeMaio, 46, raised money to commission a “scientific, unbiased” statewide poll to see if voters had an appetite to recall Newsom.

He said a “favorable poll is CRUCIAL to getting major donors to back this.”

Updated at 7:29 p.m. March 24, 2021

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