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.


Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Brooks, CA

Tribal government with gaming interests


Win/loss percentage

100 percent

$8,283,741 to winners, $0 to losers

Now known as the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, this tribe has been in California for hundreds of years. The tribe opened a tiny bingo parlor in 1985 that grew in popularity by the time the state gaming compact was signed. Since 2000, the Yocha Dehe tribe has spent millions of dollars on California politics. It opened the massive Cache Creek Casino and Resort in 2004. The same year, it gave at least $8.19 million to defeat Proposition 68, which would have broken the Indian monopoly on gambling in California unless all tribes agreed to give 25 percent of their earnings to the state.

Total contributions: $8,341,241

51 donations: 38 to candidates, 10 to ballot measures and 3 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