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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.

Sugar Daddy

Florence had the Medicis. New York had Carnegie. California's political scene has its Sugar Daddies, awarded to donors whose contributions made up at least 25 percent of all the money that a committee received. Pour some sugar on me.

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
1 Stephen L. Bing, Los Angeles, CA Screenwriter and movie producer 56 donations: 23 to candidates, 19 to ballot measures and 14 to parties
$52,500,782
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
8 Philip Morris USA Inc., Richmond, VA Tobacco company 364 donations: 286 to candidates, 67 to ballot measures and 11 to parties
$39,553,382
10 Aera Energy, Bakersfield, CA Energy company (oil, natural gas) 33 donations: 0 to candidates, 33 to ballot measures and 0 to parties
$33,435,243
11 R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Winston-Salem, NC Tobacco company 354 donations: 251 to candidates, 84 to ballot measures and 19 to parties
$25,850,024

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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