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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.

Fence Sitter

Choosing can be tough. Why do it? These donors gave to opposing candidates in the same election cycle. It's one way to guarantee backing the winner. Brilliant! Enjoy some cake and eat it, too, while atop that fence post.

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
$66,897,713
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
$52,597,794
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
$50,428,228
6 Chevron Corp., San Ramon, CA Energy company (oil, gas and geothermal) 1,321 donations: 1,196 to candidates, 37 to ballot measures and 88 to parties
$50,405,905
9 Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Palm Springs, CA Tribal government with gaming interests 1,449 donations: 1,360 to candidates, 32 to ballot measures and 57 to parties
$38,348,438
13 Pala Band of Mission Indians, Pala, CA Tribal government with gaming interests 109 donations: 77 to candidates, 27 to ballot measures and 5 to parties
$20,368,354
14 Mercury General Corp., Los Angeles, CA Auto insurance 540 donations: 469 to candidates, 37 to ballot measures and 34 to parties
$19,176,108
2 Andrew Jerrold "Jerry" Perenchio, Los Angeles, CA Univision 121 donations: 63 to candidates, 19 to ballot measures and 39 to parties
$16,927,588
18 San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Highland, CA Tribal government with gaming interests 610 donations: 542 to candidates, 10 to ballot measures and 58 to parties
$14,982,690
19 Edison International, Rosemead, CA Energy company 90 donations: 61 to candidates, 7 to ballot measures and 22 to parties
$14,503,204
23 Pfizer Inc., New York, NY Pharmaceutical company 490 donations: 432 to candidates, 8 to ballot measures and 50 to parties
$11,605,296
26 GlaxoSmithKline, London, England Pharmaceutical company 727 donations: 701 to candidates, 7 to ballot measures and 19 to parties
$10,945,786
27 California Association of Realtors, Los Angeles, CA Trade association 1,466 donations: 1,273 to candidates, 81 to ballot measures and 112 to parties
$10,667,811
29 Merck & Co. Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ Pharmaceutical company 220 donations: 215 to candidates, 3 to ballot measures and 2 to parties
$10,189,760
32 AT&T, Dallas, TX Telecommunications company 3,383 donations: 3,174 to candidates, 18 to ballot measures and 191 to parties
$9,829,843
33 Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, El Cajon, CA Tribal government with gaming interests 302 donations: 249 to candidates, 14 to ballot measures and 39 to parties
$8,717,457
34 California Professional Firefighters, Sacramento, CA Labor union 2,708 donations: 2,313 to candidates, 233 to ballot measures and 162 to parties
$8,653,027
39 Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, Alpine, CA Tribal government with gaming interests 357 donations: 311 to candidates, 7 to ballot measures and 39 to parties
$7,440,651
40 California Building Industry Association, Sacramento, CA Trade association 2,268 donations: 2,139 to candidates, 34 to ballot measures and 95 to parties
$7,319,368
42 California Motor Car Dealers Association, Sacramento, CA Trade association 1,270 donations: 1,238 to candidates, 13 to ballot measures and 19 to parties
$7,274,551
43 Amgen Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA Pharmaceutical company 427 donations: 349 to candidates, 14 to ballot measures and 64 to parties
$7,178,405
44 California Dental Association, Sacramento, CA Trade association 1,742 donations: 1,606 to candidates, 10 to ballot measures and 126 to parties
$6,958,908
45 State Building & Construction Trades Council of California, Sacramento, CA Labor Union 1,194 donations: 1,080 to candidates, 30 to ballot measures and 84 to parties
$6,806,799
46 Sempra Energy, San Diego, CA Energy company 1,416 donations: 1,262 to candidates, 24 to ballot measures and 130 to parties
$6,441,136
49 Eli Lilly and Co., Indianapolis, IN Pharmaceutical Company 668 donations: 647 to candidates, 4 to ballot measures and 17 to parties
$5,706,051
12 Angelo K. Tsakopoulos, Sacramento, CA AKT Development 70 donations: 59 to candidates, 3 to ballot measures and 8 to parties
$4,421,316
14 Vinod Khosla, Portola Valley, CA Venture capital 21 donations: 13 to candidates, 6 to ballot measures and 2 to parties
$3,982,418
18 William H. Lyon, Newport Beach, CA Home builder 160 donations: 127 to candidates, 13 to ballot measures and 20 to parties
$3,450,243
28 Eli Broad, Malibu, CA Real estate, retirement investment 116 donations: 83 to candidates, 22 to ballot measures and 11 to parties
$2,011,793
36 William E. Oberndorf, San Francisco, CA Investment management 47 donations: 37 to candidates, 6 to ballot measures and 4 to parties
$1,518,328
41 Frank E. Baxter Investment management 143 donations: 110 to candidates, 13 to ballot measures and 20 to parties
$1,445,506
46 Franklin P. Johnson Jr., Palo Alto, CA Venture capital 43 donations: 25 to candidates, 15 to ballot measures and 3 to parties
$1,302,910
48 Robert A. Day, Los Angeles, CA Investment management 60 donations: 39 to candidates, 10 to ballot measures and 11 to parties
$1,298,607
49 Donald G. Fisher, San Francisco, CA The Gap Inc. 64 donations: 47 to candidates, 14 to ballot measures and 3 to parties
$1,279,642

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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