Founded by the Center for Investigative Reporting

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.

Sacramento Bee

Alex G. Spanos, Stockton, CA

Real estate


Win/loss percentage

3 percent

$119,200 to winners, $3,862,721 to losers

Alex Spanos is a real estate developer and owner of the San Diego Chargers. He has supported Republican causes and candidates, contributing to the California Republican Party and donating $5 million in 2004 to Progress for America, a committee that supported George W. Bush's presidential campaign. Spanos was a close friend of entertainer Bob Hope and donated $500,000 to renovate Stockton's historic Fox Theatre, which was then renamed in Hope's honor. Spanos is of Greek descent and has contributed to Greek cultural causes, the arts and education. He was born in Stockton, where he still resides. He and his wife, Faye, have four children.

Total contributions: $8,979,476

83 donations: 58 to candidates, 6 to ballot measures and 19 to parties

List of contributions

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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