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The Rainmakers: California's top political donors, 2001-2011

Lavishing their largesse on legislators and political committees alike, the largest donors to California politics spent $1.25 billion from 2001 through 2011. The group — 50 special interests and 50 wealthy individuals — spans the Golden State's social order. They are corporate leaders and venture capitalists, real estate developers and Hollywood scions. They are energy and tobacco companies, labor unions and tribal governments. Collectively, they shelled out a third of all the money given to campaigns in the state during the 11-year period. This data includes only contributions to candidates and ballot measure committees, not independent expenditure groups.

Deepest Pockets

Hey, big spender, welcome to the club. These five individuals and five groups gave the most money overall, proving they have the Deepest Pockets.

1 California Teachers Association, Burlingame, CA Teachers union 1,563 donations: 907 to candidates, 569 to ballot measures and 87 to parties
2 Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Washington, DC Pharmaceuticals and biotechnology lobbying group 552 donations: 203 to candidates, 311 to ballot measures and 38 to parties
3 Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Francisco, CA Energy company (electricity, natural gas) 1,792 donations: 1,659 to candidates, 46 to ballot measures and 87 to parties
4 Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, Temecula, CA Tribal government with gaming interests 1,182 donations: 1,054 to candidates, 47 to ballot measures and 81 to parties
1 Stephen L. Bing, Los Angeles, CA Screenwriter and movie producer 56 donations: 23 to candidates, 19 to ballot measures and 14 to parties
5 Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Cabazon, CA Tribal government with gaming interests 413 donations: 314 to candidates, 23 to ballot measures and 76 to parties
2 Andrew Jerrold "Jerry" Perenchio, Los Angeles, CA Univision 121 donations: 63 to candidates, 19 to ballot measures and 39 to parties
3 Charles T. Munger Jr., Palo Alto, CA Physicist at Stanford University 60 donations: 25 to candidates, 25 to ballot measures and 10 to parties
4 L. John Doerr III, Woodside, CA Venture capital 156 donations: 129 to candidates, 19 to ballot measures and 8 to parties
5 Peter V. Sperling, Phoenix, AZ University of Phoenix 24 donations: 13 to candidates, 7 to ballot measures and 4 to parties

Source: Contribution data from National Institute on Money in State Politics

Credits: Interactive by Michael Corey, Coulter Jones and Chase Davis. Reporting by Coulter Jones. Badge design by Thomas Guffey. Additional reporting by Stanford University students enrolled in a Communications Department investigative reporting class under the direction of California Watch Editorial Director Mark Katches. The project began in January 2011. Students participating were: Devin Banerjee, Daniel Bohm, Kathleen Chaykowski, Tom Corrigan, Cassandra Feliciano, Jamie Hansen, Amy Harris, Josh Hicks, Ellen Huet, Julia James, Paul Jones, Ryan Mac, Valentina Nesci, Dean Schaffer, Elizabeth Titus and Kareem Yasin. Bohm, Hansen, Huet, Harris and Titus continued to work on the project as California Watch interns under the direction of Associate Editor Denise Zapata.


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