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.

L. John Doerr III, Woodside, CA

Venture capital


Win/loss percentage

52 percent

$4,500,927 to winners, $4,165,149 to losers

John Doerr is a venture capitalist and prominent Democrat based in the Bay Area. He has invested in some of the most successful tech companies of the last 30 years, including Google, and Sun Microsystems. Doerr is an advocate of green technology and invested substantially in Sunnyvale-based Bloom Energy Inc. President Barack Obama appointed Doerr to the Economic Recovery Advisory Board in February 2009. Doerr is also on the boards of Google and Bono's ONE campaign.

Total contributions: $9,296,476

156 donations: 129 to candidates, 19 to ballot measures and 8 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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