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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.

Frank E. Baxter

Investment management


Win/loss percentage

15 percent

$165,900 to winners, $962,754 to losers

Frank Baxter is a Republican businessman and former ambassador to Uruguay, serving from 2006 to 2009 under President George W. Bush. Before venturing into politics, Baxter worked for the global investment bank Jefferies & Co., from 1974 to 2002. He was managing director of Jefferies International in 1984 and became CEO in 1987. Baxter also founded the Investment Technology Group, an electronic brokerage firm. Baxter also served on NASDAQ’s board as a member of the executive committee and chairman of the CEO search committee. On the civic front, he has been active in pressing for education reform initiatives. He serves as co-chairman of the board of Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, a charter school group in Los Angeles.

Total contributions: $1,445,506

143 donations: 110 to candidates, 13 to ballot measures and 20 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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