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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 Dental Association, Sacramento, CA

Trade association


Win/loss percentage

84 percent

$3,326,275 to winners, $622,538 to losers

The California Dental Association is a nonprofit organization representing more than 24,000 dentists in California. It is the largest constituent of the American Dental Association. The California Dental Association is among the most active associations of its kind, engaging in member services and promoting oral health and the dentistry profession. The CDA Foundation, established in 2001, and The Dentists Insurance Company, established in 1980, are both operated and owned by the association. The group has donated $1.22 million to the state Democratic Party and $1.16 million to the state Republican Party, as well as to more than 350 candidates.

Total contributions: $6,958,908

1,742 donations: 1,606 to candidates, 10 to ballot measures and 126 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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