Ballot measure contributions hit 15-year high

Jiali Li and Chad Outler | October 14, 2016

October 19, 2016 -- Contributions to California’s 17 ballot measures have topped $379 million -- the most money raised for ballot races in a single election since 2001, according to a MapLight analysis.

Previously, the election with the most money raised for ballot measure campaigns was November 2012, with $371 million contributed.

Two ballot battles -- over increasing the cigarette tax and limiting the price the state pays for prescription drugs -- account for $196 million or nearly 52 percent of the money raised so far.

With less than three weeks left until the election, millions of dollars continue to pour into ballot measure campaigns, which are using the money to pay for ads, mailers, and robocalls to the state’s voters. Last week, the Secretary of State’s Office began sending vote-by-mail ballots to millions of California residents.

Since the beginning of October, ballot measure campaigns have raised nearly $38 million. Supporters and opponents of Proposition 56, which would increase California’s cigarette by $2 a pack, contributed almost half of that money -- $17 million. Tobacco companies opposing the measure gave about $10 million. One initiative supporter, billionaire Tom Steyer, a possible 2018 gubernatorial candidate, has contributed $5.8 million to two ballot measure committees.

The total amount of money raised for and against Prop. 56 is more than $94.8 million, with tobacco companies giving twice as much money as the measure’s backers. The initiative race is the second most expensive statewide ballot fight this election year.

At more than $101 million, the battle over Proposition 61, which would restrict prescription drug prices, remains the most expensive ballot race. Drug companies and their trade association have raised almost $87 million to fight the initiative, while the measure’s backers have contributed more than $14 million.

Most of the money for Prop. 61 has come from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is also providing the majority of financial support for Proposition 60, a measure that would require actors in adult films to wear condoms.

Propositions 56 and 61 are among the five races in which a measure’s opponents have outraised supporters. The other three are: Proposition 53, which would require voter approval before the state could issue infrastructure bonds; Proposition 66, which aims to speed up the death penalty appeals process; and Proposition 67, which would uphold the state’s plastic bag ban. Plastic bag manufacturers have provided all of the money to fight Prop. 67.

Governor Jerry Brown has given the most money to fight Prop. 53, contributing $4.1 million this month from his 2014 campaign fund. The measure’s sole supporters, farmers Dean Cortopassi and his wife, Joan, have contributed over $4.5 million. The Cortopassis sponsored the measure, because they are concerned about the potential effect of changes to the state’s water distribution plan on their land.

Many opponents of Prop. 66, which include some high-profile Silicon Valley executives, also support Proposition 62, which would replace California’s death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. They gained a new ally last month in one of Million Voter Project Action Fund’s ballot measure committees, which is also supporting five measures, including Proposition 62. Tom Steyer and his NextGen California committee, contributed all of the $1.75 million that the Million Voter Project Action Fund committee has reported so far.

This piece, which was originally published on 10/14/2016, has been updated to reflect contribution data as of 10/18/2016.


MapLight analysis of contributions to committees supporting or opposing ballot measures using data available from the California Secretary of State as of October 18, 2016. The analysis includes contributions given during the election cycle beginning on January 1, 2015, and excludes contributions between allied committees. Searchable contributions data is available on Power Search.