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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 Building Industry Association, Sacramento, CA

Trade association


Win/loss percentage

86 percent

$5,183,170 to winners, $848,508 to losers

The California Building Industry Association is a statewide trade association representing homebuilders, contractors, architects and other professionals in the building industry. The group, which was established in 1943 as a federation of local associations, historically served as a lobbying group. The group continues its lobbying efforts in Sacramento, but is now a member-based association with 10 regional chapters. The association donates fairly evenly between Democrats and Republicans and has given to about 400 different candidates, including donations to Gov. Jerry Brown and more than $100,000 to former Govs. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

Total contributions: $7,319,368

2,268 donations: 2,139 to candidates, 34 to ballot measures and 95 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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