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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.


AT&T, Dallas, TX

Telecommunications company


Win/loss percentage

78 percent

$3,748,346 to winners, $1,042,540 to losers

AT&T is the largest landline telephone provider and second-largest mobile provider in the country. AT&T Corp. was acquired by SBC Communications Inc. in 2005, creating AT&T Inc. Based on revenue, it is now the seventh-largest company in the United States. The company is a prolific donor to state and federal campaigns. AT&T gave more in campaign contributions than any other company since 1998, according to a December 2011 report by the Center for Responsive Politics. In California, AT&T has given to candidates of both parties, donating more to Democrats, but giving evenly to the state parties. The company contributed to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's campaign and the campaign of his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, in the 2010 election.

Total contributions: $9,829,843

3,383 donations: 3,174 to candidates, 18 to ballot measures and 191 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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