Out-of-State Dollars Pouring Into Ballot Question Battles

Out-of-State Dollars Pouring Into Ballot Question Battles

By Zachary Babin - November 4, 2016

BOSTON (AP) — Tens of millions in out-of-state dollars have been pouring into Massachusetts to try to persuade voters to support or oppose the four questions on Tuesday’s ballot.

Of the more than $52 million raised by groups on both sides of the initiatives, more than $37 million has come from organizations and supporters based outside Massachusetts, according to an Associated Press review of reports filed with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Question 2, about allowing the state to expand the number of charter schools, has had the most aggressive fundraising. Of the nearly $24 million raised by backers, more than $18 million came from out of state.

The largest donor to the pro-charter school question, the New York City-based Families for Excellent Schools, gave about $15 million. It’s unclear from campaign finance reports where the group’s money comes from, and a spokesman for the group declined to detail that.

“Families for Excellent Schools is a nonprofit organization,” spokesman Will Herberich said in an email. “Our mission is to organize parents and their allies and run campaigns to change education policy.”

Opponents of the question, who have raised more than $14 million, pulled in about $6 million from outside Massachusetts, the bulk of it from the Washington-based National Education Association, a teachers’ union, which contributed more than $5 million. Opposition to the question has largely been funded by local and national teachers’ unions.

A hefty portion of the money raised by both sides has helped cover television screens across the state with ads touting the benefits or pitfalls of allowing the state board of education to add up to a dozen new or expanded charter schools each year outside of existing caps.

As of Oct. 31, the pro-charter Great Schools Massachusetts had spent nearly $18.6 million on broadcast television ads, according to data from the Center for Public Integrity. That’s compared with about $12 million spent by the Campaign to Save Our Public Schools, which opposes Question 2.

The sheer level of fundraising for the four ballot initiatives this year is striking.

By comparison, the money raised for the 2016 questions outstrips all the fundraising combined for the 10 ballot questions put before voters in Massachusetts from 2010 to 2014, according to the AP review.

The second-costliest ballot question fight this year also relies heavily on out-of-state donors.

Supporters of Question 4, about whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, have raised more than $6.3 million, nearly all of it from outside Massachusetts. The largest donor is the Washington-based New Approach PAC, which was created by Peter Lewis, the late founder of Progressive Insurance and a longtime advocate of easing marijuana laws.

Opponents have raised nearly $3 million, including a $1 million donation from Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands, who grew up in Massachusetts.

Supporters have spent about $3.4 million on television ads, compared with just under $1 million by opponents.

Question 3, about whether to ban the sale of eggs and other food products from farms where animals are confined to overly restrictive cages, also relies on out-of-state donors.

The Maryland-based Humane Society of the United States has donated $2.4 million of the $2.6 million raised by supporters. Of the $301,000 banked by critics, $100,000 came from the Washington-based National Pork Producers Council.

Nearly all the $3.3 million in support of Question 1, about letting the state license another slots parlor, came from outside Massachusetts, including $2.5 million from the Delaware-based Capital Productions LLC and two other limited liability corporations based in Florida.