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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.

Eli Broad, Malibu, CA

Real estate, retirement investment


Win/loss percentage

52 percent

$852,796 to winners, $787,214 to losers

Eli Broad, the son of Lithuanian immigrants, made his fortune founding two Fortune 500 companies: the real estate company Kaufman & Broad (KB Home) and retirement investment firm SunAmerica, now a part of the American International Group (AIG). Broad has described himself as a moderate Democrat and has donated to a variety of political causes, including local measures in Los Angeles, his current city of residence, and elections reform. He is a well-known philanthropist who has spearheaded efforts to improve education in California. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and The Broad Art Foundation are estimated to have combined assets of $2.1 billion.

Total contributions: $2,011,793

116 donations: 83 to candidates, 22 to ballot measures and 11 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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