Data Tracker

See the deep pockets behind California proposition campaigns

Philip Morris USA Inc. and related entities, including Altria, have donated almost $41 million to the campaign to defeat California’s Proposition 56.
Philip Morris USA Inc. and related entities, including Altria, have donated almost $41 million to the campaign to defeat California’s Proposition 56. Associated Press file

More than 8,400 different donors have given to campaigns for and against the 17 propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot, ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to everyday Californians.

But a relative handful of trade groups, tobacco companies, unions and wealthy individuals are responsible for almost all of the more than $350 million in itemized contributions received by the main proposition campaign committees since Jan. 1, 2015. With less than a month before Election Day, the big checks keep rolling in: Ballot measure campaigns this week reported receiving $12.1 million through Wednesday.

The biggest single donor so far is tobacco giant Philip Morris USA and related entities, which have given almost $41 million to the campaign opposing Proposition 56. The measure would increase the tobacco tax by the equivalent of $2 a pack.

As an industry, pharmaceutical firms have donated more than twice as much to a ballot measure campaign. Almost two dozen drug companies have given at least $1 million to the campaign to defeat Proposition 61, the measure that would link what the state pays for prescription drugs to prices paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Opponents had raised almost $89 million through Wednesday.

Multiple ballot measure campaigns, meanwhile, have received money from some of the same big-ticket donors.

The California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems has given $36.6 million to pass a trio of ballot measures – Propositions 52 (fees on hospitals), 55 (continued higher taxes on the wealthy) and the tobacco tax measure – as well as campaigns to defeat two measures: Propositions 53 (public vote on revenue bonds) and 64 (legalizing recreational marijuana.)

Democratic activist Tom Steyer has given nearly $5.7 million to Propositions 56, 62 (abolishing death penalty) and 67 (upholding state law prohibiting plastic carry-out bags.) Only two other individuals have given more: Stanford physicist and Republican activist Charles T. Munger ($10.5 million) and Silicon Valley billionaire investor Sean Parker ($7.73 million.)

Gov. Jerry Brown, meanwhile, has given $5.8 million to proposition efforts: passing Proposition 57 (parole changes) and defeating the revenue-bond measure, which could threaten his high-speed rail and Delta tunnel projects.

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