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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.


League of California Cities, Sacramento, CA

Lobbying group


Win/loss percentage

100 percent

$16,541,585 to winners, $0 to losers

The League of California Cities, founded in 1898, has spent millions of dollars lobbying and supporting political campaigns on behalf of cities. In 2004, it supported Proposition 1A, a ballot measure to keep local sales and property tax revenues in city, rather than state, coffers. The measure passed. The league, based in Sacramento, also helped defeat Proposition 98 in 2008, which would have limited local governments' eminent-domain rights. Its membership dues range from $72 to more than $100,000, depending on the size of the city.

Total contributions: $16,541,585

109 donations: 0 to candidates, 109 to ballot measures and 0 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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