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.


United Auburn Indian Community of the Auburn Rancheria, Auburn, CA

Tribal government with gaming interests


Win/loss percentage

39 percent

$8,569,989 to winners, $13,184,493 to losers

The small tribe – about 170 people – has long struggled to obtain land and federal recognition. In 1994, Congress restored recognition of the tribe, which now owns 49 acres in the Sierra foothills. The United Auburn Indian Community has donated more than $20 million to California campaigns. Since 2003, the tribe has operated the 200,000-square-foot Thunder Valley Casino Resort. It helped fund the opposition campaign to four 2008 ballot measures that allowed four larger tribes to increase their number of slot machines. All four propositions passed.

Total contributions: $21,886,982

140 donations: 100 to candidates, 33 to ballot measures and 7 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