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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.

Sacramento Bee

Robert N. Klein II, Fresno, CA

Real estate investment


Win/loss percentage

100 percent

$3,120,617 to winners, $1,000 to losers

Robert N. Klein II is an attorney and advocate of stem cell research. He was a chief author of Proposition 71, the 2004 ballot measure that allowed the state to sell bonds to pay for up to $3 billion in stem cell research. It passed. Klein, who spent more than $3 million supporting the proposition, has said his younger son’s diagnosis of juvenile diabetes in 2001 prompted his support of medical research. Klein was the first chairman of the Governing Board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which oversees the funding directed from Prop. 71. He served in that role for more than six years before stepping down in June and becoming chairman emeritus. He is president of Klein Financial Corp., a real estate investment consulting company. Klein has bachelor’s and law degrees from Stanford University.

Total contributions: $3,144,964

32 donations: 16 to candidates, 15 to ballot measures and 1 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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