Founded by the Center for Investigative Reporting

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.


Franklin P. Johnson Jr., Palo Alto, CA

Venture capital


Win/loss percentage

78 percent

$925,019 to winners, $256,732 to losers

Franklin P. Johnson Jr. has been a venture capitalist in California since the early 1960s. He is the sole proprietor of Asset Management, which he founded in 1965, three years after he co-founded Draper and Johnson Investment. Asset Management has a history of investing in Silicon Valley companies, including Amgen and Applied Micro Circuits. He has served on numerous corporate boards and is active in the business education community. He was a trustee for the Foothill-De Anza Community College District for 12 years. He has taught venture capital courses at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and is currently on the advisory board for the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the board of overseers at the Hoover Institute at the university. Johnson earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Stanford University in 1950 and received his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1952.

Total contributions: $1,302,910

43 donations: 25 to candidates, 15 to ballot measures and 3 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.


Our Content

Who We Are

Partner With Us