John G. Sperling, Phoenix, AZ
$69,200 to winners, $1,675,000 to losers
Born into a sharecropper family, John Sperling amassed his wealth by founding the for-profit University of Phoenix in 1976, which is now part of the publicly traded Apollo Group Inc. Sperling is credited with leading the development of for-profit colleges in the United States. Recently, Sperling’s company has battled numerous lawsuits, including one in 2003 claiming that the university violated the Higher Education Act by paying recruiters based on the number of students they enrolled. The next year, the U.S. Department of Education fined the Apollo Group nearly $10 million for similar violations. Prior to founding the University of Phoenix, Sperling was a tenured professor at San Jose State University. In the past decade, Sperling has financed initiatives to decriminalize marijuana and spent at least $1.5 million on legislation that would have decreased penalties for nonviolent drug offenders.
Total contributions: $1,799,800
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.