Big Money Behind Utah's Big Ballot Questions
Campaigns for two of this year’s three ballot propositions and a nonbinding question to raise the gasoline tax have turned into multi-million-dollar endeavors. Here’s how much money each group has raised heading into the November election:
Proposition 2 - Medical Marijuana
Proposition 2, which would expand access to medical marijuana, is the most hotly debated measure, but to date is the least expensive. According to the latest campaign finance filings with the lieutenant governor’s office, the Utah Patients Coalition, the group pushing the initiative, has raised $462,624 so far this year — less than any other ballot group this election cycle. It has received more than $150,000 this year from the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. Disclosure forms from the latest filing period show a $46,000 donation from Midvale-based Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne.
Drug Safe Utah, a coalition opposed to Prop 2, has raised more than $766,000. Much of that comes from a handful of wealthy Utahns, including developers Kem Gardner and Walter Plumb and the philanthropy foundation of billionaire businesswoman Gail Miller, who each cut $100,000 checks to defeat Prop 2.
Proposition 3 - Medicaid Expansion
The group Utah Decides Healthcare has raised nearly $2.3 million — the most of any initiative - in its sponsorship of Proposition 3, which would fully expand Medicaid in Utah under the Affordable Care Act. The vast majority of that funding came from a Washington, D.C.-based group called The Fairness Project, which advocates for Medicaid expansion and raising the minimum wage.
Proposition 4 - Redistricting Commission
Utahns for Responsive Government has raised more than $1.3 million in support of Proposition 4, which aims to create an independent commission to redraw political maps after the 2020 census. The group has have also received large donations from out of state, including more than $500,000 this year from the Texas-based Action Now Initiative. But the group stands out because it has also collected thousands of small donations from individual Utahns.
Opinion Question - Gas Tax for Education and Roads
Our Schools Now abandoned its efforts for a ballot initiative after the group struck a deal with the Utah Legislature earlier this year. But the group is still pushing a non-binding opinion question which proposes raising the gasoline tax by 10 cents per gallon to help fund road maintenance and education.
Our Schools Now has brought in more than $1.4 million, including donations of $250,000 from Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller, $150,000 from Provo-based company Vivint and $100,000 each from Zions Management Services Company and Centerville-based Management and Training Corporation, among others.
For most groups, the heavy lift on fundraising came at the beginning of the year, when
they needed money to collect signatures to get on the ballot. With the Nov. 6 election just around the corner, they are spending what remains on campaign advertising.