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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.


Robert A. Day, Los Angeles, CA

Investment management


Win/loss percentage

34 percent

$259,300 to winners, $514,307 to losers

Robert Day founded the investment management firm Trust Company of the West in 1971. In California, Day's biggest campaign contributions have supported the California Republican Party and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he has supported some Democrats, donating to Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2010 gubernatorial and 2006 attorney general campaigns. Many of Day's donations, political or otherwise, have focused on education. In 2007, he donated $200 million to his alma mater, Claremont McKenna College, to endow a scholar program for economics and finance students. At the time, Claremont McKenna estimated the donation was one of the 20 largest ever given to a college or university.

Total contributions: $1,298,607

60 donations: 39 to candidates, 10 to ballot measures and 11 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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