Wealthy scientist tries to rescue California's shrinking GOP

Wealthy scientist tries to rescue California's shrinking GOP
Charles Munger Jr., center, speaks with Assemblyman Brian Jones (R-Santee) at a California Republican Party convention in Sacramento in March 2013. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The California Republican Party struck another new low last week when news came that its shrinking ranks now make up less than 28% of the state's registered voters.

But Charles Munger Jr., a courtly Palo Alto physicist who fancies bow ties and suspenders, is determined to reverse the party's two-decade slide in California.

So the 58-year-old is tapping his vast family wealth to try to rebuild the once-mighty party that gave rise to the likes of Ronald Reagan. (Munger's namesake father is the billionaire partner of investment icon Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway Corp.)

Last year, Munger spent more than $11 million to elect Republicans to 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 that's increasingly out of step with a diverse state of almost 39 million people.

All told, Munger has spent a staggering $78 million on politics over the last decade, much of it on candidates and causes that California voters rejected.

The grand-scale spending has spawned many friends and enemies for Munger. It also has made him one of the most powerful figures in California politics, an unlikely role for a man whose occupation is to study atoms in a quest to answer fundamental questions about the universe.

Read the full story behind Munger's emergence as a power broker here.

Twitter: @finneganLAT