Written by The Business Journal Staff
(AP) — Political donors have spent a record $450 million to support and oppose 17 November ballot initiatives in California, beating the state’s own record for the most spent on propositions in a single year, campaign reports filed Thursday show.
The fundraising has soared at least $12 million past California’s previous record, when $438 million was spent on the campaigns for and against 21 measures on the ballot in 2008.
No other state has come close to those amounts.
California is one of the few states that empower voters to enact laws affecting state revenue and spending. The proposals going before the state’s 18 million registered voters put billions of dollars at stake in this election.
“That’s big business,” said Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola University in Los Angeles, who commented before the record was broken. She and other campaign finance experts stress that big money flows to the contests that will have the biggest financial impact and the final push to sway voters is likely to include a spending blitz.
Proposition 61, a proposal to cap what the state pays for prescription drugs at the lowest price the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays, has drawn the biggest spending. Pharmaceutical companies have contributed most of the $108 million that’s been raised to defeat it.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which placed it on the ballot, has spent about $14 million backing it.
Because Proposition 61 would not force drug companies to change their prices, the state legislative analyst says its fiscal effect on the $3.8 billion market is unknown.
Tobacco companies are among the other biggest spenders, contributing more than $55 million to oppose Proposition 56, a proposed $2 tax increase on every pack of cigarettes sold in the state. The California Hospital Association has spent more than $46 million opposing three measures that would affect funding for Medi-Cal, the state’s health care program for the poor.
Most of the funding has come directly from the corporations facing massive gains or losses to their own bottom line on Nov. 8.
“They’re called citizen initiatives because of who has to sign them, not necessarily who has to pay for them,” said Josh Altic, who directs research on ballot measures at Ballotpedia, an organization that aggregates electoral data from all 50 states.
The totals exclude money that’s transferred between allied campaigns as well as duplicate contributions recorded when one committee raised money for more than one proposition
Two of the biggest individual donors are Republican Charles Munger Jr., who has contributed more than $10 million to support Proposition 54, seeking greater legislative transparency, and Napster founder Sean Parker, who’s given about $7 million supporting the effort to legalize and tax recreational marijuana, Proposition 64.
Where does all the money go? Reports filed with the secretary of state’s office show more than $40 million was used to pay signature-gatherers who circulated petitions to qualify each of the 14 initiatives and one referendum for the ballot. Two measures were placed on the ballot by lawmakers, a process that does not require signatures.
At least $185 million has been spent on advertisements and political consulting firms that coordinate research and media buys, the records show..