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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.


Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Cabazon, CA

Tribal government with gaming interests


Win/loss percentage

92 percent

$43,879,708 to winners, $3,979,800 to losers

The Morongo Band of Mission Indians was established in 1865 and opened its first bingo hall in 1983. The tribe's casino is one of the oldest and largest in the state. In 2009, it advocated for legalizing online poker in California, a position that was criticized by some other tribes. The Morongo Band was one of the tribes supporting a slate of gaming compact ballot measures in 2008 that allowed them to increase the number of slot machines at their casinos.

Total contributions: $50,428,228

413 donations: 314 to candidates, 23 to ballot measures and 76 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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