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State Ballot Measure Campaign Contributions Set New Record

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Sacramento, CA — Analysts looking into contributions towards the 17 statewide ballot measures say campaign spending has now exceeded $372 million — breaking a 2001 record for the most money raised for ballot races in a single election.

Maplight, which ran the analysis, partnered with Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office to set up a power search tool for public use, as reported here. Its findings include that, to date, over 53 percent of the donations went to fueling marketing efforts to fight increasing the cigarette tax — and to limit what the state pays for prescription drugs.

Funds are still pouring in. In fact, since the beginning of this month alone, ballot measure campaigns have raked in more than $30 million. More than half that amount — some $17 million — has come from those fighting against and for Prop.56, which seeks to increase the state cigarette tax by two dollars a pack. Tobacco companies, which oppose it spent almost $10 million; billionaire Tom Steyer, a big supporter of the measure, gave $5.8 million. In all, opponents and proponents of the cigarette tax raised nearly $95 million, with the former outspending the latter by roughly two to one.

The most expensive battle — over Prop.61, which would restrict prescription drug prices — has generated over $101 million overall. Unsurprisingly, the lion’s share, $87 million has come from opponents in the pharmaceutical industry. However supporters have contributed more than $14 million.

There are three other ballot measures where opponents outspent proponents, according to Maplight. This includes Prop. 53, which would require voter approval before the state could issue infrastructure bonds. The head opponent of Prop 53, Governor Jerry Brown, gave $1.7 million this month from his 2014 campaign fund. The measure’s sole supporters are the measure’s sponsors, farmers Dean and Joan Cortopassi, who spent over $4.5 million to promote it, over concerns relating to potential changes to the state’s water distribution plan on their land.

The other two ballot fights where those against outspent those in favor are: Prop. 67, which upholds the state’s plastic bag ban, for which plastic bag manufacturers ponied up all of the funds to fight; and Prop. 66, that would speed up the death penalty appeals process. Many opponents of the latter measure also lent support to Prop. 62, which aims to replace the state’s death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.