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$130 Million Spent on Ballot Issues : $76 Million Contributed in Fight Over 5 Insurance Initiatives Alone

Times Staff Writers

Contributions to campaigns for and against the 29 statewide propositions on Tuesday’s ballot have topped $130 million, shattering the previous all-time high of $33.4 million set in 1984, according to figures made available Thursday.

In the battle over five insurance initiatives alone, the state Fair Political Practices Commission reported that $76 million has been collected by the warring factions.

A flood of last-minute contributions has pushed the mainline insurance industry’s figure beyond the $57-million mark, $8 million more than industry representatives had indicated they would spend just a week ago.

That does not include another $5 million contributed by maverick insurance executive Harry O. Miller to support Proposition 101.

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Meanwhile, the commission reported that both sides of Proposition 99, the cigarette and tobacco tax initiative, have now spent $18.25 million. In that battle, cigarette companies trying to defeat the measure have spent $16.6 million, according to the FPPC.

Will Go Even Higher

The figures released Thursday reflect contributions through Tuesday, indicating that the already unprecedented expenditures on the five insurance propositions, the tobacco tax initiative and other measures will go even higher.

Insurance companies pushing Proposition 104, the no-fault initiative, had earlier said they expected to ultimately spend about $49 million. But the insurers were already $8.3 million over their own estimates with $57.3 million raised, according to the FPPC report and late contributions reports on file at the secretary of state’s office.

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A spokesman for that campaign said Thursday that all money raised will be spent.

There were some estimates in Sacramento that total spending by all insurers will reach $65 million by Election Day.

Until this year, the most that has ever been spent on a single initiative campaign was $10.9 million in the June, 1986, primary on Proposition 51, the tort reform initiative.

But spending on Proposition 104, one of the five insurance initiatives, is already nearly six times that amount, and money raised on behalf of two other initiatives on the general election ballot is also well past the old record.

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Reaction to the new, higher insurance industry contribution and spending figures was not long in coming from supporters of Propositions 100 and 103, the two initiatives the insurers are trying to defeat.

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, the best-known supporter of Proposition 103, said, “I think the more they spend, the more boomerang they generate among the voters. . . . A 103 victory now will have even greater significance for the rest of the country, in terms of demonstrating the determination of the public for insurance reform and the resurgent effectiveness of a grass-roots, word-of-mouth campaign.”

Another supporter of the 103 measure, State Controller Gray Davis, called the industry spending “obscene.”

‘Destiny’s Child

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“But no amount of money will stop 103,” he said. “Like the Dodgers, 103 is destiny’s child. . . . I think they can spend $100 million and they won’t beat 103.”

State Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp, a supporter of Proposition 100, declared: “This level of campaign spending is scandalous. People wonder why rates have shot up. This tells us how the insurance companies spend our premiums. They’re trying to buy the election, and the voters should not be fooled.”

Steven Miller, chairman of the 100 campaign, said, “The sad truth is that none of that outrageous sum of money represents a shred of ideological commitment on the part of insurers toward the public good. It’s just insurance companies spending consumer’s premiums in order to protect insurance company profits.”

Responding for the industry campaign, spokesman Scott Carpenter said:

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“We have long been the whipping boy of demagogues. But no-fault will not be held down. It is going to pass. It is the only initiative that will pass.

“The insurance industry is certainly one of the most unpopular in the state, but we’ve been able to mount an expensive campaign to try to get the pluses of the no-fault system before California voters. We are proud of that and look forward to carrying the no-fault proposal forward into other states following the elections.”

Carpenter said Thursday that the new contributions reported in recent days by the industry’s campaign organization, the Clint Reilly firm, are pretty much all that the organization will report.

Inundating Their Policyholders

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He insisted that regular campaign spending is about what had earlier been projected, but that spending by individual companies, which have been inundating their policyholders with mailings boosting Proposition 104 and attacking Propositions 100 and 103, “is much higher than we expected.”

Last summer, insurance companies predicted that they would spend $43 million and tobacco companies were estimating that they would spend about $10 million. At the time, both predictions seemed wildly extravagant.

The Fair Political Practices Commission, meanwhile, said that as of Tuesday, supporters of Proposition 100, which is financed principally by the California Trial Lawyers Assn., reported raising $14 million.

The FPPC also said in its report that supporters of Proposition 98, the school funding initiative, had raised nearly $6 million, well above the $4.5 million that organizers of that campaign had been saying they would spend.

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Supporters and opponents of Propositions 96 and 102, the two AIDS initiatives, reported raising $1.98 million as of Tuesday.

In other initiative campaigns, supporters of Proposition 97, which would restore funds to the state’s worker safety program, have spent $1.4 million. There is no record of money being spent to defeat the measure.

The two sides battling over Proposition 95, which would provide emergency assistance to the homeless, have spent $1.9 million. Spending on other measures was considerably less. No spending at all was reported on 11 ballot measures.

Walter Zelman, executive director of California Common Cause, a public interest lobbying group that has been a leader in pressing for campaign spending reform, said the $130 million raised on behalf of all the propositions this year “has reached beyond anyone’s wildest nightmares about money going into initiative campaigns.”

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“This is a mind-boggling escalation in campaign spending,” he said.

Voters approved two campaign reform measures in the June primary that will limit contributions made to individual candidates beginning Jan. 1, 1989. But there currently are no limits on contributions to initiative campaigns.

Zelman, who backed one of June’s two campaign reform measures, Proposition 68, said courts traditionally have “taken a dim view of placing limits on ballot measures. Contributions can be seen as having a corrupting effect on individual candidates, but the feeling is you can’t corrupt a ballot measure. It is there in print.”


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