Susan Sandler





Board Trustee, Sandler Foundation

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Susan Sandler is a San Francisco-based left-wing political activist and philanthropist known for her support of Democratic candidates and left-wing causes and organizations. Sandler and her husband Steven Phillips, who is also a left-of-center advocacy donor, founded the Sandler Phillips Center to advocate for left-wing causes. Sandler sits on the boards of several of the nation’s most prominent left-of-center non-profits and advocacy organizations, such as the liberal donor collective Democracy Alliance. She describes herself as the largest and earliest funder of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for President, as well as an early investor in the political careers of Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). 1


Sandler is the daughter of the late Herb and Marion Sandler, who were left-wing philanthropists and founders of the Sandler Foundation, where Susan Sandler is a board trustee. The elder Sandlers were the billionaire owners of Golden West, a savings and loans bank. The Sandler family is often noted for instituting and pioneering the aggressive lending practices that led to the housing crisis of the late 2000s. Golden West was sold by the Sandlers to Wachovia for $24 billion in 2006, prior to the 2008 financial crisis. 2 The Sandlers made $2 billion from the sale of Golden West, giving away over $1.5 billion to form the Sandler foundation. 3

Susan Sandler attended Stanford University and married fellow left-wing activist student Steven Phillips, a civil rights lawyer and Democratic Party activist who is a self-described student of “Marx, Mao, and Lenin” and wrote that his “political baptism was the Jesse Jackson 1984 Presidential campaign.” 4

Phillips has a long history in left-wing organizing and politics; he was an elected member of the San Francisco Board of Education and served as board president. Phillips is also the founder of left-wing advocacy organization Democracy in Color. 5

Political and Advocacy Activities

Susan Sandler followed in her parents’ tradition of financially supporting left-wing causes and Democratic Party candidates. In 2019, Sandler made $1 million in contributions to Dream United, a Super PAC promoting the Presidential candidacy of U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). 6 Sandler notes that she was among the first donors to the campaigns of President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Booker. 7

Sandler is a prolific donor to Democratic candidates, giving maximum donations to dozens of candidates across the country each political cycle. 8

In July 2020, as board trustee for the Sandler Foundation, Sandler announced the foundation would be donating $200 million to “racial justice groups.” These groups were the Texas Organizing Project, New Florida Majority, New Virginia Majority, the Arizona Center for Empowerment, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Civic Engagement Fund, PICO California, and Advance Native Political Leadership. The funds will help recipients advocate for left-wing policies in battleground states and create long-term constituencies that support these issues. 9

Democracy Alliance

Sandler was a founding member of the Democracy Alliance (DA), the major liberal donor convening that included Mark and Susie Buell, Peter B. Lewis, and George Soros. Sandler and her husband Steve Phillips are highly involved with Democracy Alliance, with Sandler serving on the board of the organization. 10


  1. “About”. Sandler Phillips Center. Accessed October 9, 2019.
  2. Mac, Ryan. “Former Golden West CEO And Billionaire Marion Sandler Dead At 81”. Forbes. June 4, 2012. Accessed October 9, 2019.
  3. Mac, Ryan. “Former Golden West CEO And Billionaire Marion Sandler Dead At 81”. Forbes. June 4, 2012. Accessed October 9, 2019.
  4. Phillips, Steve. “The Progressive Case for Cory Booker.” PowerPAC+, December 20, 2012.
  5. “About”. Sandler Phillips Center. Accessed October 9, 2019.
  6. “Browse Individual Contributions: Susan Sandler.” Accessed October 17, 2019.
  7. “About”. Sandler Phillips Center. Accessed October 9, 2019.
  8. “Susan Sandler FEC Individual Contributor Search”. Federal Elections Commission.  Accessed October 9, 2019.
  9. Herndon, Astead W. “Progressive Donor Susan Sandler to Give $200 Million to Racial Justice Groups,” September 14, 2020.
  10. Vogel, Kenneth. “Donors seek to harness Hollywood to boost liberal causes”. April 9, 2016. Accessed October 9, 2019.

Connected Organizations

  1. Center for American Progress (CAP) (Non-profit)
    Former Board Member
  2. Democracy Alliance Conferences (Other Group)
    Participant, Spring 2014; Spring 2015; Spring 2016; Fall 2016; Fall 2017
  3. Democracy Alliance (DA) (Other Group)
    Founding Member, Board Member
  4. Learning Policy Institute (Non-profit)
    Board Chair
  5. Obama 2008 Presidential Campaign (Political Party/527)
  6. Sandler Foundation (Non-profit)
    Board Trustee
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