California Pours Big Bucks Into Federal Campaigns — Mostly From Wealthy Cities

President Obama was in California in June to attend several fundraisers.

President Obama was in California in June to attend several fundraisers. (Connor Radnovich/San Francisco Chronicle)

California donors poured $768 million into Senate, House and presidential races between 2007 and the end of 2014 — money that largely flowed from wealthy cities in Los Angeles County and the Bay Area.

An analysis of federal campaign finance data by found that residents of California’s most famous ZIP code  — 90210 — gave the most money, $12.8 million, over the eight-year period. Aside from the Bay Area and L.A. County’s dominance of the top 20 most generous ZIP codes, Sacramento and Newport Beach were also in the mix.

In all, residents of the following cities poured nearly $155 million into the coffers of federal candidates over the eight-year period:

ZIP Amount City County Population
90210 $12,860,713.00 Beverly Hills Los Angeles County 16,984
90049 $11,383,548.00 Los Angeles (Brentwood) Los Angeles County 29,275
90266 $11,124,125.00 Manhattan Beach Los Angeles County 30,505
95814 $10,244,835.00 Sacramento (downtown) Sacramento County 5,330
94010 $8,503,650.00 Burlingame San Mateo County 35,172
94109 $8,473,744.00 San Francisco (Nob Hill/Russian Hill) San Francisco County 38,763
94105 $8,452,198.00 San Francisco (Rincon Hill/SoMa San Francisco County 5,271
92660 $8,358,433.00 Newport Beach Orange County 28,529
90024 $8,091,490.00 Los Angeles (Westwood) Los Angeles County 22,009
92037 $8,039,083.00 La Jolla San Diego County 30,981
90067 $7,844,815.00 Los Angeles (Century City) Los Angeles County 5,575
95841 $7,679,058.00 Sacramento (North Highlands) Sacramento County 13,816
94301 $7,358,970.00 Palo Alto Santa Clara County 14,401
90272 $6,822,879.00 Pacific Palisades Los Angeles County 19,526
94025 $6,625,643.00 Menlo Park San Mateo County 32,613
94027 $6,289,276.00 Atherton San Mateo County 6,145
94611 $5,666,959.00 Oakland Alameda County 32,155
94022 $5,646,046.00 Los Altos Santa Clara County 17,620
94901 $5,469,509.00 San Rafael Marin County 33,561

The numbers shouldn’t come as a surprise to political observers — federal candidates, particularly Democrats, have long used the Golden State to fill their campaign coffers. 

“Why not come here and use California as a piggy bank if you’re a candidate? People out here are politically interested and very excited to see candidates,” said Rick Hasen, an election law professor at UC Irvine.

Also unsurprising, said Hasen: The most money came from some of the state’s wealthiest communities. He said in general the richest 0.1 percent of Americans donate the most to political campaigns.

“So it’s just par for the course that candidates and parties — and now these outside groups — go to where the money is, so now they are going to the richest part of California.”

Hasen said that because the data include only contributions to candidates, it “grossly understates the amount of money that is certainly coming from rich Californians.”

And while $768 million is a lot of money, Hasen said the figures would be even higher if both parties viewed the Golden State as up for grabs in presidential races.

“If this were a competitive state, you’d see even more money coming in, because you’d have candidates and political operatives coming here even more,” he said. “The fact is that California is a safe Democratic state and so you don’t have, for example, presidential candidates making many visits out here to campaign.”

But, he said, “the money’s here,” so they still show up to ask for it.


Marisa Lagos

Marisa Lagos reports on state politics for KQED’s California Politics and Government Desk, which uses radio, television and online mediums to explore the latest news in California’s Capitol and dig deeper into political influence in the Golden State. Marisa also appears on a weekly podcast analyzing the week’s political news.

Before joining KQED, Marisa worked  at the San Francisco Examiner and Los Angeles Times, and, most recently, for nine years at the San Francisco Chronicle where she covered San Francisco City Hall and state politics, focusing on the California legislature, governor, budget and criminal justice. In 2011, she won a special award for extensive and excellent work in covering California justice issues from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and also helped lead the Chronicle's award-winning breaking news coverage of the 2010 San Bruno Pacific Gas & Electric explosion. She has also been awarded a number of fellowships from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.

Marisa has a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She and lives in San Francisco with her two sons and husband. Email: Twitter @mlagos Facebook

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