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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 Realtors, Los Angeles, CA

Trade association


Win/loss percentage

82 percent

$4,586,621 to winners, $1,016,470 to losers

A trade organization with 155,000 members, the California Association of Realtors is an educational and advocacy group for Realtors that lobbies on the state and federal level. The group conducts research and helps members with licensing. The group was founded in Los Angeles in 1905 and now has more than 117 local member associations throughout the state. It sponsored and pushed for California's real estate license law and continues to lobby at the state and federal level. The group has given to more than 350 candidates throughout the state, donating to both Democrats and Republicans – about $5.3 million to Democrats and $4.4 million to Republicans.

Total contributions: $10,667,811

1,466 donations: 1,273 to candidates, 81 to ballot measures and 112 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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