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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.


Professional Engineers in California Government, Sacramento, CA

Labor union


Win/loss percentage

76 percent

$2,918,518 to winners, $918,472 to losers

Professional Engineers in California Government is the union that represents state-employed engineers who are part of the construction process for much of California’s infrastructure. The group was founded in 1962 and has 13,000 members, including architects, land surveyors and others who build bridges, rail and other services. One of its primary advocacy issues is preventing the state from outsourcing engineering jobs to private contractors. The group donates primarily to Democratic candidates and the state party, giving more than $6 million from 2001 through 2011, compared to $53,000 to the GOP during the same time.

Total contributions: $7,285,575

1,448 donations: 1,354 to candidates, 25 to ballot measures and 69 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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