Data Tracker

Who’s bankrolling or making bank on California ballot measures?

Charles T. Munger, Jr., spent heavily to help pass Proposition 20 in November 2010. This fall, Munger is pushing Proposition 54, which would require bills to be in print for three days before consideration by the Legislature.
Charles T. Munger, Jr., spent heavily to help pass Proposition 20 in November 2010. This fall, Munger is pushing Proposition 54, which would require bills to be in print for three days before consideration by the Legislature. Adithya Sambamurthy/ The Bay Citizen

Over the next three months, California voters will get their fill of advertising by campaigns supporting or opposing many of the 17 measures that have qualified for the Nov. 8 ballot.

What often won’t be clear in the TV ads and stacks of campaign mailers are the donors and political pros making it all possible.

Covering the first half of 2016, campaign statements due last week offer the first post-qualification look at the tens of millions of dollars behind this fall’s exercise in direct democracy – and who is getting the money.

$175.3 million Contributions to November ballot measure committees through June 30

All but two of the propositions made it onto the ballot thanks to voter signatures, often financed by a small pool of deep-pocketed donors. Proposition 54, which would prohibit the Legislature from voting on any bills that had not been in print three days, has just one benefactor: Charles Munger Jr., a Stanford physicist and Republican activist who has given more than any individual to state campaign committees since January 2013.

Other ballot measures have broader financial backing. Campaign committees supporting the state law restricting free carryout plastic bags – Proposition 67 – had more than 1,700 different donors through June. They gave an average of less than $500, the lowest average donation of any ballot measure.

$69.8 million Contributions to November ballot measures from July 1 through Wednesday

Much of the donors’ money went to companies that collect voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Remember those signature gatherers last winter juggling several petition-attached clipboards? That’s reflected in the latest filings. Roseville-based National Petition Management, for example, grossed more than $16 million from the campaigns trying to qualify what became six of the propositions on the fall ballot.

Other campaign-related businesses also have received a lot of money from ballot measure campaigns, such as those who drafted the language, provided consulting services or polling. For some propositions, meanwhile, opponents had yet to begin raising or spending money as of the June 30 filing deadline.

The contribution and spending totals in the June 30 filings will increase significantly in the coming weeks as campaigns shift their focus from getting on the Nov. 8 ballot to proponents and opponents trying to win in the fall.

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The Sacramento Bee’s Data Tracker is a weekly feature that offers a deeper look at the numbers behind today’s news. Jim Miller: 916-326-5521, @jimmiller2

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