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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.

35

Wendy Schmidt, Atherton, CA

Schmidt Family Foundation

Badges

Win/loss percentage

37 percent

$578,900 to winners, $1,002,000 to losers

Wendy Schmidt is the wife of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. She is president of the Schmidt Family Foundation and was a founding board member of Climate Central, a nonprofit focused on climate change research. Schmidt has supported environmental causes, giving $1 million to Proposition 87, a failed 2006 initiative that would have raised taxes on oil companies to pay for research and incentives to support alternative energy. Schmidt is also president of ReMain Nantucket, a project of the Schmidt Family Foundation.

Total contributions: $1,580,900

8 donations: 4 to candidates, 4 to ballot measures and 0 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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