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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.

Party Animal

It's their party and they'll donate as much as they want to. Bipartisan support is not a necessity to these political creatures who gave at least 80 percent to just one political party. That's an impressive feat, considering ballot measures are nonpartisan and do not even count toward this calculation. That would be a party foul for these Party Animals.

41 Professional Engineers in California Government, Sacramento, CA Labor union 1,448 donations: 1,354 to candidates, 25 to ballot measures and 69 to parties
9 Lawrence K. Dodge, Monarch Beach, CA Business executive, banker 25 donations: 14 to candidates, 3 to ballot measures and 8 to parties
12 Angelo K. Tsakopoulos, Sacramento, CA AKT Development 70 donations: 59 to candidates, 3 to ballot measures and 8 to parties
16 T. Boone Pickens Jr., Dallas, TX Energy and oil 13 donations: 4 to candidates, 5 to ballot measures and 4 to parties
22 Charles R. Schwab, Woodwide, CA Brokerage and banking 43 donations: 10 to candidates, 2 to ballot measures and 31 to parties
24 George Joseph, Los Angeles, CA Insurance 14 donations: 1 to candidates, 4 to ballot measures and 9 to parties
31 Dawn L. Arnall, Los Angeles, CA Ameriquest Mortgage Company 20 donations: 13 to candidates, 1 to ballot measures and 6 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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