Who’s Spending to Defeat Progressive Ballot Measures Today?

Who's Spending to Defeat Progressive Ballot Measures Today? (Image: JR / TO; Adapted: Kyle Johnston / Flickr)

According to Ballotpedia, 162 statewide ballot initiatives from 35 states will be decided on today, with 71 of those measures started by grassroots activists via signature petitions. Measures across the country are aiming to legalize marijuana, create a statewide single-payer health care system and raise the minimum wage. But these initiatives face significant financial obstacles. Who’s trying to block these bottom-up democratic measures?

California, Arizona, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts are voting on ballot initiatives that would legalize the use of recreational marijuana today. If California votes to legalize recreational use, as polls suggest, the measure is expected to grow the market for both recreational and medicinal marijuana from $7 billion to $22 billion in four years — opening up the possibility of eventual federal legalization.

For more original Truthout election coverage, check out our election section, “Beyond the Sound Bites: Election 2016.”

However, a number of law enforcement organizations in California are spending against the measure, ostensibly in the interest of preserving their role in the war on drugs. According to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, law enforcement interest groups including the Peace Officers Research Association, the California Police Chiefs Association, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the California Correctional Supervisors Organization, the California State Sheriffs Association, the Los Angeles Police Protective League and the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, have each contributed upwards of $10,000 individually (and hundreds of thousands collectively) to block the legalization effort.

Many of those same groups are spending even more money to defeat another important California ballot measure, which would repeal the death penalty, according to the same data. Most of the above-mentioned groups and additional law enforcement interests such as the California Correction Peace Officers, the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the San Francisco Police Officers Association Local 9 and the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs Association, among others, are individually spending upwards of $100,000 individually and millions collectively to defeat Proposition 62, the death penalty repeal measure.

According to a MapLight analysis, contributions from outside of the state have made up about 85 percent of the more than $1.6 million raised to defeat the marijuana legalization measure on the ballot in California today. Three other state ballot measure campaigns, including measures limiting the price the state pays for prescription drugs, banning the use of plastic bags and directing proceeds from the sale of reusable bags to a state environmental fund, have each received more than 75 percent of their funding from individuals and groups outside of California, according to the same analysis.

Pharmaceutical and health care interests are spending an eye-popping $72,550,199 to defeat California’s Proposition 61, which would prevent drug price gouging. Those same interests are also spending to defeat marijuana legalization efforts in Arizona, with pharmaceutical interests spending the most to defeat recreational legalization there.

In Colorado, a number of health insurance companies and interest groups are spending to defeat a measure that would create a statewide single-payer health care system, according to data from the Institute. Blue Cross Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente, the Colorado Health Care Institute, United Healthcare, Centura Health, HealthONE and Cigna, among others, are spending hundreds of thousands each in an attempt to defeat the measure. The health care industry has raised a total of $1,753,710 combined to block the initiative. A number of banking interests are also spending big to block the prospect of a statewide health care system.

Another important ballot measure in Colorado, which would raise the minimum wage, is facing opposition from the food and beverage industry, especially restaurant business associations, which have spent a combined $426,600 to defeat the effort, according to Institute data. The Colorado Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association and the Workforce Fairness Institute are among the top donors opposing the measure. Minimum wage increases are also being decided on in Washington State, Arizona and Maine, with largely the same business interests spending to defeat the measures in Washington.