Ballot Measures

By John Myers and Sophia Bollag
August 10, 2016

Political professionals who run California ballot measure campaigns always worry about how to get the attention of voters. And it all starts with a lot of money.

Through early August, almost $200 million has been collected for campaigns to support or oppose propositions on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot.

That hews to what campaign consultants have been predicting for months, with voters facing 17 measures — the most on any single ballot in California since March 2000.

Campaign finance reports, full data covering the first six months of 2016 and recent daily reports provide an early glimpse of what’s in store.

Jan. 1-June 30: $126.7 million raised

As of June 30, the deadline for second-quarter campaign reports, the total take for propositions was more than $126.7 million.

A sizable part of that money went to gathering voter signatures on initiative petitions, a particularly expensive effort this year given how many efforts were underway at the same time. The campaigns also faced a strict legal deadline to win a place on the ballot by the end of June, and several were still scrambling to collect signatures into late May.

July 1-Aug. 9: $72.4 million raised

For the last few weeks, the pace of ballot measure fundraising appears to have risen dramatically.

A review by The Times of daily campaign disclosures of $5,000 or more finds more than $72 million in contributions over the last 10 weeks.

That brings the 2016 total to more than $199.2 million. Add to that money spent as long ago as 2014 on two of the ballot measures, and the total surpasses the $200-million mark.

But it’s not evenly distributed: Just five of the ballot measures account for almost three-quarters of all of the money that’s been raised.

The big money is coming from Big Tobacco

In the last two months, tobacco companies have contributed nearly $36 million to a campaign to kill a proposed cigarette tax, Proposition 56.

The measure would raise taxes on cigarettes by $2 a pack, as well as raise taxes on e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.

In 2012, tobacco companies spent more that $46 million to defeat a similar measure that would have imposed a $1-a-pack tax on cigarettes. That initiative, Proposition 29, failed by fewer than 43,000 votes.

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