Friday, 13 October 2006 00:40

Prop 87 Spending Breaks Records

The battle over Proposition 87 has set a new fundraising record this week with contributions now topping $100 million dollars. The previous initiative fundraising record was set in 1998 with Proposition 5, a measure that legalized Indian gaming. It was revealed that oil companies have been the largest contributors towards breaking the previous record as they have donated more than $58 million to the opposing campaign for Prop. 87. However, most of the financial support for Proposition 87 has surprisingly come from a single source, Hollywood movie producer Stephen Bing. The media tycoon has given $40 million dollars to the Proposition 87 effort.
The November ballot measure would tax California oil production up to 6 percent with proceeds going to fund clean alternative energy programs. The goal is raise a total of $4 billion for alternative energy programs and help cut California petroleum consumption by 25 percent. "It's not a surprise that the oil companies are spending almost 60 million to kill Prop 87," said Yesef Robb, the communications director for the initiative's campaign. "They want to keep us dependent on the oil they import and sell." But representatives from the No on Prop 87 campaign said they're simply leveling the playing field. They said they needed to raise large sums to make sure voters are well informed about the problems with the measure. "We clearly think Prop 87 is the wrong way. You need to be able to communicate that," said Al Lundeen, spokesman with the No on 87 Campaign. "California is a large state, it's obviously expensive to campaign in the state of California. You need to be able to reach out to voters in many ways." Campaign finance reform advocates say the Prop 87 fundraising levels illustrate why the initiative fundraising process needs change. "It's a ton of money, and it just shows how out of whack the California initiative process is," said Ned Wigglesworth, spokesman for Common Cause, an organization that promotes open government. "The only groups that can compete in what is supposed to be the people's initiative process are those who can afford $50 million." The bulk of the money raised in modern political campaigns goes toward television advertising, which experts say can now run $4 million to $5 million a week for a statewide media buy. However, campaign propaganda is not limited to TV ads as petition collection firms, direct mail agencies and campaign strategists all receive monies for advertising. "Money doesn't buy you love anymore," said Barbara O'Connor, the director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento. "Instead it buys you campaign consultants who get rich."