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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.


Dawn L. Arnall, Los Angeles, CA

Ameriquest Mortgage Company


Win/loss percentage

17 percent

$55,500 to winners, $268,833 to losers

Dawn L. Arnall was co-chairwoman of Ameriquest Mortgage Co., a housing lender that closed in 2007. The company gained notoriety in the mid-2000s as the largest lender in the country of subprime mortgages, which later were criticized for leading to the housing crisis. Arnall’s husband, Roland Arnall, founded the company. The couple married in 2000 and were major donors to various charities and political campaigns at the federal and state levels. Combined with donations from Ameriquest, the couple donated heavily to both Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as to President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election. Roland Arnall served as ambassador to the Netherlands under Bush from 2006 to 2008, stepping down from the post for health reasons. He died in 2008 at age 68.

Total contributions: $1,945,533

20 donations: 13 to candidates, 1 to ballot measures and 6 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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