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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.

Sacramento Bee

Bruce E. Harrington, Newport Beach, CA


Win/loss percentage

100 percent

$1,988,258 to winners, $1,000 to losers

Bruce E. Harrington funded the campaign for Proposition 69, a 2004 California ballot measure known as the DNA initiative. The measure passed, and it allows for the collection of DNA from all felons and people arrested for certain crimes. It requires all DNA samples to be submitted to the state’s database. This was Harrington’s only major campaign donation in the past decade. Harrington crafted the proposition after the brutal death of his younger brother and sister-in-law 25 years before. Keith and Patti Harrington were killed when an intruder entered their California home, raped Patti and then bludgeoned them both to death.

Total contributions: $1,989,258

15 donations: 2 to candidates, 13 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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