After Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom opted out of the 2016 contest to fill retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s seat and more or less declared he’ll run for governor in 2018, he received a flurry of five-figure campaign contributions.
One contributor who maxed out at $56,400 was Aileen Getty, listed as “not employed.”
But when your name is Getty, “not employed” does not mean poor.
She is the granddaughter of fabled oil tycoon J. Paul Getty and a first cousin of William Getty, who, with childhood chum Newsom, founded the PlumpJack restaurant chain.
It was another clue to the densely intertwined relationships among three families – the Gettys, the Newsoms and the Browns, including Gov. Jerry Brown.
A $2 billion investment trust owned by William Getty’s father, composer Gordon Getty, and managed by Newsom’s father, William Newsom Jr., provided the initial financing for PlumpJack, named for a Gordon Getty opera.
William Newsom Jr. resigned from the state appellate court, to which he had been named by lifelong friend Jerry Brown, to manage investments for Gordon Getty, also a friend dating to high school days.
Gavin Newsom’s grandfather, William Newsom Sr., was a close friend and fundraiser for Brown’s father, Pat Brown. And just as Pat Brown’s governorship ended, the senior Newsom was awarded a concession for the Squaw Valley ski area, developed by the state for the 1960 Winter Olympics, and site of the first PlumpJack restaurant. A few years later, Newsom swapped the concession for some state-owned land in Stockton, then sold it to a developer.
During his first governorship, Jerry Brown not only appointed Gavin Newsom’s father to superior and appellate court judgeships, but hired Carole Onorato, the judge’s sister, as an adviser.
Meanwhile, Brown also had a close relationship with the Gettys. Gordon Getty’s socialite wife, Ann, often acted as the young governor’s hostess and fundraiser.
Essentially, Gavin Newsom is Brown’s quasi-nephew and, as mayor of San Francisco, originally planned to run against his quasi-uncle for the governorship in 2010.
Eventually, Newsom thought better of it and settled for the lieutenant governorship. Initially, relations between the two appeared cool, even though only a corridor separates their Capitol offices, but more recently, they’ve seemed to warm. Newsom has, for instance, backed Brown in his squabble with the University of California.
So does that make Newsom Brown’s heir-apparent?
Perhaps. But Brown plays his political cards close to his vest. And we may learn that he has another successor in mind if Attorney General Kamala Harris wins that U.S. Senate seat.
Brown would have a very high-profile office to fill – one that both he and his father occupied and a traditional steppingstone to the governorship.