California Gay Marriage Becomes Money Race
October 29, 2008
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SAN FRANCISCO–At least 64,000 people from all 50 states and more than 20 other countries have given money to support or oppose a ban on same-sex marriage in California, reflecting broad interest in a race that some consider second in national importance only to the presidential election.
Ten days before the vote on Proposition 8, campaign finance records show that total contributions for and against the measure have surpassed $60 million, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.
That would be a record nationally for a ballot initiative based on a social rather than economic issue, campaign finance experts say. It also eclipses the combined total of $33 million spent in the 24 states where similar measures have been put to voters since 2004.
If approved by California voters, Proposition 8 would overturn a state Supreme Court ruling, which legalized same-sex marriages, by changing the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman.
Campaign committees formed to back or battle the amendment were close in fundraising as of Oct. 25, the AP’s analysis found. Supporters had raised at least $28.2 million; opponents had taken in $32.3 million, closing a fundraising gap that had them $8 million behind a month ago.
The figures for each side are actually higher because small cash donations made since Sept. 30 had not yet been reported.
The measure is likely to attract more money than any race other than the billion-dollar presidential election, judging by campaign-finance data from other high-profile contests. The closest appears to be the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota, at $35 million.
“I’m surprised how much they are spending because I would have thought 90 percent of the people would have made up their minds on this issue,” said Robert Stern, president of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies. “But if this is a close race, that undecided 10 percent will decide the election. Every dollar, in a sense, counts.”
The money pouring into the 13 committees promoting or challenging the measure has come from prominent religious conservatives and gay rights activists, Hollywood actors and moguls, teachers and CEOs.
Individuals who identified themselves as retirees and homemakers accounted for the most donations, giving more than $11 million. Self-identified lawyers gave $2.3 million.
On the yes side, the Knights of Columbus, based in New Haven, Conn., is the measure’s largest single contributor so far, having given $1.4 million. Other top contributors to the Yes on 8 campaign were Irvine banking heir Howard Ahmanson Jr.’s Fieldstead and Co. foundation ($1.1 million); John Templeton Jr., son of the late Bryn Mawr, Pa., investor John Templeton ($900,000); the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association ($500,000), and Elsa Prince, ($450,000), mother of Blackwater founder Erik Prince.
Knights of Columbus spokesman Patrick Korten said the Catholic fraternal organization has backed amendments limiting marriage to a man and a woman in every state where they have appeared. But none of the group’s other contributions has come close to what the Knights are putting into the Proposition 8 race.