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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 League of Conservation Voters, Oakland, Los Angeles, CA

Environmental advocacy group


Win/loss percentage

61 percent

$3,394,269 to winners, $2,152,730 to losers

The California League of Conservation Voters is a nonpartisan environmental advocacy group that lobbies and donates to candidates focused on environmental issues. The group has 30,000 members and is a state branch of the national League of Conservation Voters, which does similar work on the federal level. Founded in 1972, the California group is best known for its California Environmental Scorecard. The annual publication has been published for nearly four decades and rates each member of the state Legislature and the governor on what it considers key environmental votes.

Total contributions: $5,563,473

252 donations: 206 to candidates, 37 to ballot measures and 9 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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