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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.


Fred Eychaner, Chicago, IL



Win/loss percentage

17 percent

$233,000 to winners, $1,168,500 to losers

Fred Eychaner is a media executive whose Chicago-based company, Newsweb Corp., has controlled several radio stations, print publications and TV stations. Newsweb started as a printing company in the 1970s, printing publications such as the Chicago Reader. The company sold WPWR-TV, a Gary, Ind., station, to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Television Stations group in 2003, which is a large source of Eychaner’s wealth. He has been active in politics, as well as a major donor to several charitable causes in the Chicago area. He is the largest private donor to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. He contributes to Democratic campaigns nationwide, including at least $500,000 to a super political action committee supporting President Barack Obama’s re-election.

Total contributions: $1,452,500

16 donations: 6 to candidates, 8 to ballot measures and 2 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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