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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.

Participation Award

Nice job! None of the other badges were a good fit, but no one leaves empty-handed. We're all unique, special snowflakes, after all. Now you can add this to your resume: the Participation Award, for donors who didn't get any other badge. Mom would be so proud.

7 California State Council of Service Employees, Sacramento, CA Labor union 984 donations: 635 to candidates, 318 to ballot measures and 31 to parties
20 California Correctional Peace Officers Association, West Sacramento, CA Labor union 1,157 donations: 1,007 to candidates, 47 to ballot measures and 103 to parties
21 California Federation of Teachers, Burbank, CA Teachers union 816 donations: 513 to candidates, 263 to ballot measures and 40 to parties
22 California School Employees Association, San Jose, CA Labor union 1,658 donations: 1,431 to candidates, 111 to ballot measures and 116 to parties
28 California Chamber of Commerce, Sacramento, CA Business lobbyst 512 donations: 386 to candidates, 86 to ballot measures and 40 to parties
31 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000, Sacramento, CA Labor union 414 donations: 303 to candidates, 45 to ballot measures and 66 to parties
7 Reed Hastings, Santa Cruz, CA Netflix 67 donations: 39 to candidates, 22 to ballot measures and 6 to parties
36 California Nurses Association, Oakland, CA Labor union 1,493 donations: 1,340 to candidates, 113 to ballot measures and 40 to parties
38 California State Council of Laborers, Sacramento, CA Labor union 1,393 donations: 1,310 to candidates, 19 to ballot measures and 64 to parties
47 California Faculty Association, Sacramento, CA Labor union 855 donations: 609 to candidates, 201 to ballot measures and 45 to parties
50 California League of Conservation Voters, Oakland, Los Angeles, CA Environmental advocacy group 252 donations: 206 to candidates, 37 to ballot measures and 9 to parties
26 William E. Bloomfield Jr., Manhattan Beach, CA Real estate 61 donations: 34 to candidates, 12 to ballot measures and 15 to parties
27 Robin P. Arkley II, Eureka, CA Real estate 45 donations: 21 to candidates, 10 to ballot measures and 14 to parties
30 Robert J. Fisher, Atherton, CA The Gap Inc. 42 donations: 25 to candidates, 11 to ballot measures and 6 to parties
33 George M. Marcus Real estate investment 116 donations: 95 to candidates, 10 to ballot measures and 11 to parties
34 Paul F. Folino, Orange County, CA Technology 86 donations: 61 to candidates, 12 to ballot measures and 13 to parties
39 David Bohnett, Los Angeles, CA Venture capital 50 donations: 39 to candidates, 7 to ballot measures and 4 to parties
40 Fred Eychaner, Chicago, IL Media 16 donations: 6 to candidates, 8 to ballot measures and 2 to parties
42 Anne G. Earhart, Laguna Beach, CA Energy company heiress 18 donations: 11 to candidates, 6 to ballot measures and 1 to parties
44 Stephen M. Silberstein, Belvedere, CA Software 53 donations: 37 to candidates, 9 to ballot measures and 7 to parties
50 John T. Chambers, Los Altos, CA Cisco Systems 94 donations: 59 to candidates, 7 to ballot measures and 28 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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