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Ranking California’s biggest political donors

By Laurie Bennett

June 4, 2012 at 4:44am

Yet another California proposition - this time to boost cigarette taxes, has brought millions of dollars into the state.

Tobacco companies Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have spent more than $30 million this year to defeat the measure on Tuesday’s ballot.

Both are among California’s top political contributors, according to a list compiled by The Bay Citizen.

No. 1 among group donors was the California Teachers Association, followed by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

The Bay Citizen, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, analyzed donations from 2001 to 2011 and found that the top individual contributor was Stephen Bing, real estate investor and movie producer. Bing gave more than $52.5 million during the period, most of it in support of a 2006 proposition to fund alternative energy programs.

No. 2 on the list of individual donors was former Univision chairman Jerry Perenchio, who gave almost $17 million. Charles Munger Jr., son of the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, ranked third, giving $14 million. Venture capitalist John Doerr placed fourth, contributing $9.3 million.

Bing is a billionaire who inherited a fortune from his grandfather, a New York real estate developer.

Outside California, he may be best known for underwriting the 2009 humanitarian mission in which Bill Clinton won freedom for two American journalists imprisoned in North Korea.

Bing and Clinton are friends. Bing was also a bundler for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008.

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