Billionaires Including Soros, Zuckerberg and Steyer Spend $78M on Ballot Initiatives

Billionaires, especially liberal ones, aren’t just funding candidates and impeachment campaigns in 2018. Many are also funding ballot initiatives around the country, mostly in states they don’t live in.

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) found that 34 billionaires including liberals George Soros, Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent a combined $78 million on statewide ballot measures this year. The story was co-published by the left-wing magazine The Atlantic.

Those ballots included restoring voting rights to felons in Florida, renewable energy mandates, tax hikes in Maine and lighter penalties for drug possession. And most of the giving went to out of state efforts. More than $70 million came from 22 of those billionaires’ and went to ballot initiatives somewhere other than their home state.

Steyer, who through at least 2013 was still making money from fossil fuels, spent more than $8.2 million on Arizona’s Proposition 27 and $1.9 million on Nevada’s Question 6. Both would require utility companies to use more renewables for electricity production. Years ago, when he was winning environmental awards in the U.S., Steyer was increasing Australian and Indonesian coal production by 70 million tons. The billionaire hedge fund manager from California was also investing in “green” energy, so his environmental crusades have benefitted him financially.

Soros gave a total of $5,380,000 combined several ballot initiatives around the country. His support included $300,000 promoting rent control in California, $200,000 for higher taxes in Maine, $1.5 million to restore felons’ voting rights in Florida, $420,000 to require unanimous jury decisions for felony convictions in Louisiana, $550,000 to alter campaign finance, lobbying and redistricting laws in Missouri, $500,000 opposing photo ID requirements to vote in North Carolina, $1.5 million to reduce drug felonies and change drugs laws in Ohio and more.

Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan spent $1 million on Ohio’s Issue 1, to make drug felonies misdemeanors and $250,000 on their home state of California’s propositions to authorize $4 billion for affordable housing.

Former mayor Michael Bloomberg also made the CPI list with his half million contribution toward independent redistricting commissions in Colorado.

Some big givers were focused closer to home. For example, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, his wife Connie, venture capitalist Nick Hanauer and his wife Leslie spent a combined $2,226,036 to increase gun restrictions in their home state of Washington (the Ballmers gave $1 million combined, the Hanauers $1,226,036).

To its credit, the CPI story admitted that some of the billionaires mentioned in its story and list were its own donors. It noted that Laura and John Arnold are donors and Soros’s Open Society Foundations as well as the Ford Foundation “were previously donors.” But the story didn’t mention how much any of those donors had given.


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Campaigns & Elections Campaign Financing Atlantic Mark Zuckerberg George Soros Tom Steyer Michael Bloomberg
Julia A. Seymour's picture