Report shows who’s who among top political donors

Washington — DreamWorks co-founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg are among the affluent Californians taking advantage of new campaign rules that allow them to donate unlimited amounts to assist President Obama’s re-election.

On the Republican side, former Univision CEO Jerry Perenchio has donated $2 million to elect Republicans and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has been a financial savior to presidential candidate Ron Paul with a $900,000 donation.

The notable names are among thousands of California donors revealed this month by the Federal Election Commission in its financial disclosure report for 2011, which for the first time includes multimillion-dollar-size contributions.

President Obama raised $13.7 million in California last year, the figures show, more than all of his Republican challengers combined. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the closest competitor, having raised $6.6 million.

The Bay Area has contributed more than $6 million to Obama, which is almost half of his statewide total. Among Obama’s donors were Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who safely crash-landed an airliner in the Hudson River in 2009. Sullenberger and his wife, Lorraine, who live in Danville, each contributed $5,000 to Obama.

Obama’s donors in the state range from Hollywood stars Will Smith and George Clooney to Silicon Valley moguls Eric Schmidt, president of Google, and Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist.

Romney’s contributors, though less widely known, include powerful executives of large banks and real estate companies, including strong support from his former employer, Bain Capital, whose top executives have donated at least $50,000.

The $26 million in direct contributions to the candidates’ campaigns was supplemented by an additional $12 million in contributions to the political action committees supporting the candidates.

As the result of several recent Supreme Court decisions, donors can give unlimited sums to such committees, known as super PACs, as long they are independent and do not coordinate with the candidate.

Source: Federal Election Commission

Jessica Philipps is a reporter for California News Service, a journalism project of the University of California Washington Center and the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. cns@ucdc.edu.

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