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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.

Bay Citizen

Reed Hastings, Santa Cruz, CA



Win/loss percentage

25 percent

$2,013,080 to winners, $6,073,024 to losers

Reed Hastings is best known as the co-founder of Netflix, the DVD rental company based in the Bay Area. Before that, he co-founded Pure Software, which he sold for $750 million in 1997. He has been active in California politics, giving substantial amounts to education-related ballot measures and candidates who share his views. He is a founding member of, Aspire Public Schools, Pacific Collegiate School and He served as president of the California State Board of Education under former Gov. Gray Davis. In 2000, he joined Davis and the California Teachers Association in advocating passage of Proposition 39, which reduced the majority vote needed to pass school construction bonds.

Total contributions: $8,506,895

67 donations: 39 to candidates, 22 to ballot measures and 6 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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