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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.


Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Francisco, CA

Energy company (electricity, natural gas)


Win/loss percentage

27 percent

$17,129,840 to winners, $47,045,613 to losers

Pacific Gas and Electric is one of the largest natural gas and electric companies in the country and is an active participant in California politics. Anthony Earley serves as chairman, president and CEO of parent company PG&E Corp. The company, founded in 1905, has opposed measures that proposed environmental restrictions on energy companies and those that would have increased competition. In 2010, PG&E spent more than $46 million in support of Proposition 16, which would have required local governments to obtain a two-thirds majority vote before creating local utilities. The measure was defeated.

Total contributions: $66,897,713

1,792 donations: 1,659 to candidates, 46 to ballot measures and 87 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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