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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.


Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Los Angeles, CA

Energy company (oil, natural gas)


Win/loss percentage

98 percent

$9,782,650 to winners, $152,100 to losers

Occidental Petroleum is an international oil and gas exploration company, with activities in the U.S., Middle East, North Africa and Latin America. The fourth-largest oil exploration and production company in the U.S., Occidental spent at least $9.5 million opposing Proposition 87 in 2006. The ballot measure, which failed, would have created a $4 billion program to reduce oil consumption and provide incentives for alternative energy by creating a new tax on oil extraction in California. Occidental teamed up with several other oil companies, including Chevron and Aera Energy, to fight the measure.

Total contributions: $9,978,000

249 donations: 239 to candidates, 9 to ballot measures and 1 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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