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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.


American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Washington, DC

Labor union


Win/loss percentage

51 percent

$6,160,156 to winners, $5,907,317 to losers

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has 179,000 members in California, represented by 76 local chapters. The union represents a variety of different public sector employees, including court employees, emergency dispatchers, groundskeepers and other local government employees. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AFSCME has more than 1.6 million active and retired members in the U.S. It is part of the AFL-CIO, a federation of 56 national and international unions.

Total contributions: $15,672,357

1,085 donations: 913 to candidates, 80 to ballot measures and 92 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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