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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.


Stephen L. Bing, Los Angeles, CA

Screenwriter and movie producer


Win/loss percentage

2 percent

$999,212 to winners, $50,595,714 to losers

Stephen Bing inherited more than $500 million from his grandfather, a New York real estate tycoon, when he was 18. He attended Stanford University before dropping out his junior year. He has worked primarily in real estate and film, writing, directing and producing a number of pictures over the years. He also was involved in a high-profile paternity battle regarding actress Elizabeth Hurley's son, born in 2002. Although he previously denied being the father, DNA tests proved he was. Bing donates generously to Democratic candidates and environmental causes, spending an enormous amount on Proposition 87, a failed 2006 ballot measure that would have increased taxes on gas companies to help fund environmental initiatives.

Total contributions: $52,500,782

56 donations: 23 to candidates, 19 to ballot measures and 14 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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