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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.

Sacramento Bee

George M. Marcus

Real estate investment


Win/loss percentage

84 percent

$821,274 to winners, $161,152 to losers

George M. Marcus, who was born George Moutsanas in Greece, founded the Marcus & Millichap Co., the parent of a group of real estate and investment services companies, in 1971. He also founded the publicly held real estate investment trust Essex Property Corp., now Essex Property Trust. He has contributed to Democratic campaigns, including those of state Assembly candidates Joe Simitian and Elaine Alquist. The vast majority of his donations, however, have funded traditionally liberal social issues that have put him at odds with conservatives in the Greek Orthodox community ­– mainly, his support of stem cell research and Planned Parenthood.

Total contributions: $1,779,674

116 donations: 95 to candidates, 10 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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