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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.


Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, Temecula, CA

Tribal government with gaming interests


Win/loss percentage

99 percent

$49,640,206 to winners, $357,063 to losers

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, founded by an executive order in 1882, has spent more on political contributions than any other tribe in the state since 2000. It has donated almost as much to state and local Republican organizations as it has to Democratic ones. The bulk of its donations – 90 percent – worked to sway gaming-related ballot measures, and the tribe had its way each time. According to its website, the tribe prides itself on cultural activities, local charitable donations and "partnerships" with other tribes, including its successful and massive 2008 gaming campaign.

Total contributions: $52,597,794

1,182 donations: 1,054 to candidates, 47 to ballot measures and 81 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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