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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 State Council of Laborers, Sacramento, CA

Labor union


Win/loss percentage

83 percent

$4,371,739 to winners, $889,552 to losers

The California State Council of Laborers advocates on behalf of the Northern California District Council of Laborers, a union founded in San Francisco with more than 30,000 members. The group is affiliated with Laborers’ International Union of North America, which has more than a half-million members working in construction in the U.S. and Canada. There are more than 20 local chapters of the union in California. The state council lobbies in Sacramento and gave more than $6 million to Democrats, including $1.5 million to the state party.

Total contributions: $7,794,275

1,393 donations: 1,310 to candidates, 19 to ballot measures and 64 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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