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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 Federation of Teachers, Burbank, CA

Teachers union


Win/loss percentage

67 percent

$8,519,951 to winners, $4,232,792 to losers

The California Federation of Teachers, founded in 1919, is made up of 135 local teachers unions chartered by the American Federation of Teachers. Smaller than the California Teachers Association, the union has about 120,000 members. Along with other unions, the federation supported Proposition 25, a ballot measure passed by voters in 2010 that established a simple-majority vote requirement for the Legislature to approve the state budget. The measure ended the previous two-thirds vote requirement.

Total contributions: $13,370,983

816 donations: 513 to candidates, 263 to ballot measures and 40 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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