Founded by the Center for Investigative Reporting

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 J. Fisher, Atherton, CA

The Gap Inc.


Win/loss percentage

65 percent

$1,192,176 to winners, $630,700 to losers

Robert J. Fisher is the son of Donald Fisher, the lifelong San Francisco resident who co-founded clothing retailer Gap Inc. Robert Fisher inherited much of his wealth when his parents handed control of the company to him and his two brothers in 2004. Several members of the Fisher family have made major contributions to California candidates and initiatives. Robert Fisher has donated to both political parties and has consistently supported environmental and clean energy causes. He also sits on the boards of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Total contributions: $1,982,376

42 donations: 25 to candidates, 11 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.


Our Content

Who We Are

Partner With Us