Following the Money Part 4- Proposition 106 (End of Life Options)
Proposition 106- Access to Medical Aid-In-Dying Medication.
This is the fourth article in a series called “Following the Money” where we examine the money spent in support of and opposition to various ballot measures in Colorado. To read the first three, visit our website www.cleanslatenow.org.
Proposition 106 would amend Colorado’s statutes to allow the following (sourced from the Colorado Blue Book):
- Allow a terminally ill individual with a prognosis of six months or less to live to request and self-administer medical aid-in-dying medication in order to voluntarily end his or her life;
- Authorize a physician to prescribe medical aid-in-dying medication to a terminally ill individual under certain conditions.
- Create criminal penalties for tampering with a person’s request for medical aid-in-dying medication or knowingly coercing a person with a terminal illness to request the medication.
Examining the money behind issues like this one is always interesting because it isn’t immediately obvious who is supporting or opposing it. There aren’t any obvious opposing financial interests as their often are with ballot measures, so who is spending millions in support or opposition for this, and how to do they have so much money to spend in the first place?
First let’s take a look at the No side. The committee dedicated to defeating this ballot measure is called “No Assisted Suicide Colorado.” So far they have raised over $2.6 million and I’ve been seeing their yard signs all over the place. So where is this money coming from? If you’ve been reading these articles you probably know the drill. Let’s look at their top ten donations:
|ARCHDIOCESE OF DENVER||DENVER, CO||Business||$1,000,000.00|
|ROMAN CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF COLORADO SPRINGS||COLORADO SPRINGS, CO||Business||$500,000.00|
|ARCHDIOCESE OF DENVER||DENVER, CO||Business||$387,499.00|
|DIOCESE OF PUEBLO COLORADO||PUEBLO, CO||Business||$135,000.00|
|ARCHDIOCESE OF DENVER||DENVER, CO||Business||$115,000.00|
|ARCHDIOCESE OF DENVER||DENVER, CO||Business||$98,000.00|
|THE CATHOLIC ASSOCIATION||WASHINGTON, DC||Business||$50,000.00|
|COLORADO CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY||LAKEWOOD, CO||Business||$50,000.00|
|ARCHDIOCESE OF KANSAS CITY IN KANSAS||KANSAS CITY, KS||Business||$25,000.00|
|ROMAN CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF ROCKVILLE CENTRE||ROCKVILLE CENTRE, NY||Business||$25,000.00|
What is worrying about this top-ten list is that it proves this effort is not, as they say on their website, ” A coalition of disability rights, healthcare, legal, faith-based, and patient advocacy organizations.” These donors alone represent just under 90% of all the funding behind this committee. Religious organizations like these are opposed to proposition 106 on ideological grounds, and they are the ones behind the effort to defeat 106. I suspect that “a coalition of disability rights workers and healthcare industry groups” sounds better than “a coalition of mega churches spending millions of dollars” from a PR perspective. However, it is worth noting that these religious organizations are often funded by small donations collected from their members, so we can hope that some of these millions were raised in that fashion…even if this no-campaign in particular was not.
Now let’s look at the Yes campaign, a committee called “Yes on Colorado End of Life Options.” This side was puzzling for a few reasons. As someone who grew up in the religious south where churches are as ubiquitous as Starbucks, I had a sneaking suspicion some of them might be mobilizing against a ballot measure like 106. I had no clue who was going to be on the Yes side, and the top ten list of donations didn’t help very much:
|COMPASSION AND CHOICES ACTION NETWORK||DENVER, CO||Corporation||$4,500,000.00|
|COMPASSION AND CHOICES ACTION NETWORK – COLORADO||DENVER, CO||Issue Committee||$500,000.00|
|COMPASSION AND CHOICES||DENVER, CO||Corporation||$257,800.00|
|ADAM LEWIS||ASPEN, CO||Individual||$50,000.00|
|CHARLES HAMLIN||DENVER, CO||Individual||$25,000.00|
|CATHERINE PODELL||BURLINGAME, CA||Individual||$15,000.00|
|CELESTE GRYNBERG||CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, CO||Individual||$10,000.00|
|LUCY STROOCK||BOULDER, CO||Individual||$10,000.00|
|JAREN DUCKER||DENVER, CO||Individual||$10,000.00|
|LINDA BROWN||DENVER, CO||Individual||$10,000.00|
The Yes On End of Life Options Colorado committee has raised just under $5.7 million so far, the vast majority coming from something called Compassion and Choices Action Network, without knowing more about these groups, this list doesn’t do us much good. When you dig a layer deeper and look at the funding behind Compassion and Choices Action Network, all we can find is that they are funded by the Compassion and Choices Network which is a 501(c)(3) (nonpartisan and nonprofit public charity). We’ve come this far so it would be nice if we could dig another layer deeper and see where the 501(c)(3) gets its money. The problem is 501(c)(3)’s don’t have to make their donors public.
We can see some information, like their IRS Form 990, which show the total dollar amounts raised, but nothing specific. All I can really say for certain is that the Compassion and Choices 501(c)(3) raised around $16 million last year, and $15 million of that was from “contributions.” Their mission statement states that they are “…committed to improving care and expanding choice and the end of life. Across the nation, we work ensure healthcare providers honor and enable patients’ decisions about their care.”
I’m assuming that the Compassion and Choices 501(c)(3) get their money from donors who believe in their mission and cause, but I have no idea of knowing that for sure because our system doesn’t require that level of transparency. Imagine if a 501(c)(3) was formed and funded exclusively by interests outside America and then supported or opposed candidates and ballot measures. We would have no way of knowing because they could obfuscate the true source using this method of legal layering and ending up with the completely opaque 501(c)(3). We will get into the problems arising from dark money another day.
Even though these are both technically special interest groups, I do think their are some glimmers of democratic equality on both sides of this issue. As I mentioned before, many religious organizations are funded by small donations from their members. It’s also likely that the Compassion and Choices nonprofit’s contributions come from a wide variety of donors who believe in their cause. I only wish or laws required a level of transparency that would make it clear either way.
Executive Director, Clean Slate Now