From the February 6, 2012, Ozarks Farm and Neighbor (registration and subscription required):
With the release of the fourth quarter fundraising report, the Your Vote Counts Committee disclosed that the vast majority of their funding comes from the extremist animal-rights groups and donors from outside Missouri. The report, found on the Missouri Ethics Commission’s website, shows that Your Vote Counts Committee received a total of $164,863.92 in monetary and in-kind contributions from out-of-state individuals and special interest groups. Animal-rights groups ASPCA and HSUS contributed $50,000 and $87,305.39 respectively. Only two donors accounting for $150 were from the state of Missouri. In total, 99.91 percent of the Your Vote Counts Committee’s funding came from outside of Missouri in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Here’s that report if you’re interested.
So many ballot initiatives are driven by organizations and committees that have some idea of controlling something that displeases the committeemembers’ sense of aesthetics, and those committees are either directed or helped greatly by out-of-jurisdiction, centralized organizations dedicated to promoting those very laws. The committee forms, gets a couple sawbucks from actual residents, and then the bulk of its money from national organizations.
Another example: The Citizens for Clean Air Springfield, who successfully initiated a local ballot measure and banned smoking in Springfield, Missouri, got the vast majority of its monies from the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society (PDF report). A couple dollars from Springfield residents, a couple dollars from other local residents who do not live in Springfield itself, and tens of thousands of dollars from national organizations.
Did you know if you’re giving money to the American Cancer Society or the American Heart Association, you’re giving money to drive local bars out of business? Of course not. You thought you were giving money to research treatments for these things, but it’s all a big slush fund with national charities.
Does this mean the ballot initiative process is flawed? Well, sort of. It presupposes an informed populace who respects individual freedom and understands that most issues can’t be adequately explored in a bumper sticker or a calendar full of puppies.
Does this mean the organizations should not spend their moneys influencing politics? Well, no, those organizations have the same rights as individuals, corporations, and other organizations in political speech. However, donors and voters need to know where their donations are going and whether the fundraising and political speech on the radio or television actually represents the feelings of their fellow citizens or whether it’s the views of a couple of local citizens and a couple of wealthy citizens from somewhere else.