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.


Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, El Cajon, CA

Tribal government with gaming interests


Win/loss percentage

92 percent

$6,923,157 to winners, $637,900 to losers

With only 130 members, this small, San Diego County tribe owns the Sycuan Casino, a golf course, a San Diego hotel, two wastewater treatment plants and is involved in San Diego development through the Sycuan Tribal Development Corporation. The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation spent at least $6 million supporting 2008 ballot measures that changed the gaming compacts with four tribes: the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Kumeyaay. The ballot measures, which passed, allowed the tribes to add 17,000 more slot machines to their casinos.

Total contributions: $8,717,457

302 donations: 249 to candidates, 14 to ballot measures and 39 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