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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.


California Association of Public Hospitals & Health Systems, Oakland, CA

Trade association


Win/loss percentage

1 percent

$92,700 to winners, $10,901,754 to losers

A nonprofit trade organization established in 1983, the California Association of Public Hospitals & Health Systems represents 19 hospitals, health care systems and academic medical centers in 15 counties in the state. Member hospitals deliver care to 2.5 million Californians annually, despite only representing 6 percent of all hospitals in the state. The association spent $10.8 million supporting Proposition 86 in 2006. The measure, which failed, would have increased taxes on cigarettes to pay for anti-smoking campaigns and hospital care services.

Total contributions: $11,077,454

215 donations: 54 to candidates, 153 to ballot measures and 8 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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