SACRAMENTO (AP) — Supporters and opponents of California’s 17 November ballot measures have raised nearly $390 million six weeks before the election, putting the state about $85 million shy of record fundraising with some of the heaviest spending yet to come.
Reports filed by political donors with the secretary of state’s office before a Thursday campaign reporting deadline show a whopping $389 million in contributions on hot-button issues including prescription drug pricing and hospital fees.
“If the fundraising records haven’t been broken yet, they’re about to be,” said Dan Schnur, a University of Southern California professor and former chairman of the state agency that regulates campaign finance.
He noted that the pace of fundraising and spending accelerates as Election Day nears.
The National Institute on Money in State Politics data shows California ballot measures amassed more than $471.5 million in 2008, a state record, when Californians considered ballot measures ranging from gay marriage to increasing the required size of cages for chickens. The next highest spending for propositions was $455 million in 2012.
Four initiatives on this year’s ballot regarding taxes, prescription prices and hospital fees account for $300 million of the total so far, including more than $100 million into Proposition 61, placed on the ballot by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to limit what the state pays for prescription drugs for people insured on government-subsidized health programs to the same rated paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Members of the industry association Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America have contributed most of the $86 million against the initiative.
The state legislative analyst says the state pays nearly $3.8 billion for those prescriptions each year, and Proposition 61 could reduce that by tens of millions of dollars.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has spent $9 million in favor of the measure.
“Where you have big money impact, you’ll see big money spent,” Robert Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said. “For many of these interests it’s a small investment with potentially big results.”
Tobacco companies are the next biggest spenders on initiatives so far this election, with Altria Group, R.J. Reynolds, ITG Brands LLC and their subsidiaries having contributed $55 million against the latest effort to increase tobacco taxes via Proposition 56.
Beth Miller, spokeswoman for the campaign against the tobacco tax increase, said in an emailed statement that opponents are doing what they can “to break through the noise and clutter that comes with a crowded ballot.”
With 17 measures on the ballot, “communicating with nearly 18 million voters is inherently an expensive undertaking,” Miller said.
Another big spender is the California Hospital Association, which has contributed $46 million on three measures that would affect funding for Medi-Cal, the state’s health care program for the poor: Supporting the tobacco tax increase, Proposition 55 to extend an increased income tax on the wealthy, and Proposition 52 to protect Medi-Cal funding from legislative budget dealings.
Stern said this election presents a perfect storm for money in ballot measures, with relatively few signatures needed to get on the ballot, numerous controversial issues, multiple proposals that would have serious financial impact and the state’s move to put all initiatives on the November ballot.
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