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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.

Vinod Khosla, Portola Valley, CA

Venture capital

Badges

Win/loss percentage

41 percent

$1,602,767 to winners, $2,318,551 to losers

Vinod Khosla is one of the most influential venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Born in India in 1955, he attempted to start his own soy milk company at age 20 – a venture that failed to get off the ground. He came to the U.S. to get his master’s degree in biomedical engineering, then attended Stanford University to study for an MBA. There, Silicon Valley fueled his desire to become an entrepreneur. In 1982, he co-founded Sun Microsystems at age 27. In 1986, he joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture capital company, which had invested in Sun. In 2004, he founded his own venture capital firm, Khosla Ventures, which focuses on scientific innovation. Khosla is a supporter of green technology, and in 2009, Khosla Ventures raised more than $1 billion to start a venture capital fund specifically for backing green technology companies.

Total contributions: $3,982,418

21 donations: 13 to candidates, 6 to ballot measures and 2 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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