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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.


Brian L. Harvey, Los Angeles, CA

Real estate


Win/loss percentage

90 percent

$935,300 to winners, $108,400 to losers

Brian L. Harvey is a Los Angeles real estate developer and president of Cypress Land Company. The company is a commercial real estate developer with clients that include Fuji Film, Minolta Corp. and Mary Kay Cosmetics. He donated to Republicans in the state, backing former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and in 2010, Steve Poizner’s gubernatorial bid. Poizner lost to former eBay CEO Meg Whitman in the Republican primary. He donated $100,000 to support Proposition 14 in 2010. The measure, which passed, created an open primary, meaning the top two candidates, regardless of party, advance to the general election. Harvey told Bloomberg’s Businessweek that he hoped it would encourage more moderate candidates to run.

Total contributions: $1,300,420

20 donations: 9 to candidates, 11 to ballot measures and 0 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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