A month after Charles Munger Jr. wrote his first $100,000 check to a political campaign, he got a taste of the chronic rejection familiar to California's big Republican donors: The 2005 ballot measure he backed lost by a landslide.
Yet Munger, the son of a billionaire, went on to spend almost $78 million on scores of other campaigns.
The spending by the Palo Alto physicist has thrust him into an unlikely role for a man whose occupation is to research the fine points of protons and electrons: He is a central force in the Republican Party's attempted comeback from its two-decade slide in California.
"If it weren't for Charles Munger, the California Republican Party would have been driven into the sea at this point," said Kevin Spillane, a GOP strategist.Charles Munger Jr., campaign spendingA courtly academic who fancies bow ties and suspenders,
Munger, 58, spent more than $11 million last year to help put Republicans in Congress and the Legislature, making him by far the state party's biggest benefactor. His funding of Latino, female and moderate candidates has been crucial to the party's effort to shed its image as a league of conservative white men.
Munger's spending on ballot measures illuminates other priorities. He has tried to block tax hikes, diminish the power of labor unions and stop lawmakers from drafting election maps to their liking.