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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.


Amgen Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA

Pharmaceutical company


Win/loss percentage

86 percent

$1,302,655 to winners, $217,100 to losers

Amgen is a pharmaceutical company that manufactures, researches and develops medicine. William K. Bowes Jr. and Franklin P. Johnson Jr. were two of the men who founded the Thousand Oaks-based company in 1980. Amgen employs 17,000 people in seven states and more than a dozen countries. It spent more than $4.5 million on Propositions 78 and 79 in 2005. Both propositions aimed to create a discount prescription drug program, but Amgen and other industry groups supported 78 and worked to defeat 79. Both measures failed.

Total contributions: $7,178,405

427 donations: 349 to candidates, 14 to ballot measures and 64 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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