A whopping $150 million has been raised by campaigns for and against statewide ballot measures in California so far this year, according to the state campaign finance watchdog agency.
To help voters track who is paying for the various campaigns, the state Fair Political Practices Commission has set up a website that lists all contributions of $10,000 or more to ballot measure campaigns.
“Although there are limitations on the amount a state candidate may receive from a single contributor, there are no such limits for committees that are formed to support or oppose a ballot measure,” said Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the FPPC. “It is crucial that we provide the voters with tools to see where the money is coming from so they can make informed choices.''
The website shows that tobacco companies played a major role in raising $48 million for the campaign that defeated a $1-per-pack tobacco tax on the June ballot. In all, more than $66 million was raised by committees formed to support or oppose Proposition 29, the site shows. Tobacco giants Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and their affiliates put more than $43 million into fighting the measure.
On the other side, the American Cancer Society was the biggest donor in favor of Proposition 29, contributing $7.7 million.
The tobacco tax is among 13 ballot measures being considered this year, including 11 on the November ballot. They include a tax measure proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown and an initiative that would prohibit unions and businesses from donating directly to candidates, Proposition 32. The California Teachers Assn. wrote a $7.5-million check to the campaign against the latter measure.
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento
Photo: Lance Armstrong and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attend a rally in May in support of Proposition 29, the tobacco tax that voters ultimately rejected. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times