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
This is the third 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 two, visit our website www.cleanslatenow.org.
Amendment 72 would increase the Colorado state sales tax on a pack of cigarettes from $0.84 to $2.59 per pack. To see how this money would be spent, you can read the summary in the “blue book” here.
Unlike the last two ballot measures, the committees on both sides of this ballot measure are funded almost exclusively by non-individual contributions. The purpose of this analysis is for you to look at the contributors and decide for yourself what their motives are. There is a large fundraising disparity between the two sides as well as the biggest single contribution we’ve ever seen spent against a Colorado ballot measure.
The committee behind Amendment 72 is called “The Campaign for a Healthy Colorado.” So far they have raised over $2.1 million. Let’s look at their top ten donors:
|UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO HEALTH||DENVER, CO||Corporation||$250,000.00|
|CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL COLORADO||AURORA, CO||Corporation||$200,000.00|
|AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION||DALLAS, TX||Corporation||$150,000.00|
|AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION||DALLAS, TX||Corporation||$150,000.00|
|UNIVERSITY PHYSICIANS, INC.||AURORA, CO||Corporation||$150,000.00|
|UNIVERSITY PHYSICIANS, INC.||AURORA, CO||Corporation||$100,000.00|
|COLORADO BEHAVIORAL HEALTHCARE COUNCIL||DENVER, CO||Corporation||$85,000.00|
|COLORADO COMMUNITY HEALTH NETWORK||DENVER, CO||Corporation||$74,473.00|
|HEALTHIER COLORADO||DENVER, CO||Corporation||$69,496.05|
|COLORADO HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION||GREENWOOD VILLAGE, CO||Corporation||$55,000.00|
The average donation to this committee is around $22,000, with just under a hundred total contributions. The vast majority of contributors to this committee are healthcare companies, just like the ones above. There are a few individual contributions to this effort, but only a tiny amount relative to the total amount raised. We’ll leave it to you to decide what the motives are behind these contributions. It’s possible that these organizations have no motivation other than the belief that higher taxes will lead to fewer smokers and a healthier Colorado. It’s also possible that these organizations stand to benefit financially from the tens of millions of dollars in new tax dollars that will be spent on health related programs if this measure passes.
Now let’s look at the committee against Amendment 72 called “No Blank Checks in the Constitution.” So far they have raised over $17 million to defeat this measure. Normally I’d post the top ten donors to this committee, but there actually aren’t even 10 different donors:
|ALTRIA CLIENT SERVICES LLC & ITS AFFILIATES||RICHMOND, VA||LLC||$17,412,653.89|
|INTERNATIONAL PREMIUM CIGAR & PIPE RETAILERS ASSOCIATION||WASHINGTON, DC||Business||$6,449.55|
|CORE-MARK INTERNATIONAL INC.||SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, CA||Corporation||$1,143.43|
As you can see, Altria is almost exclusively funding this committee and is now one of the biggest spenders on any Colorado ballot measure, ever. Altria is one of the world’s largest tobacco companies. This is the company behind such brands as Basic, Marlboro, Parliament, Skoal, Virginia Slims, and many more. We may not know the motives of the health companies behind Amendment 72, but with annual profits of around $11 billion, we know exactly what Altria’s motives are. Altria wants to keep as many Coloradans smoking as possible and is prepared to spend a boatload of money to make sure that happens.
There are special interests and corporations on both sides of this issue, but the opposition definitely has taken corporate spending to new heights. At CleanSlateNow.org we prefer when campaigns and committees finance their efforts with small donations from a broad coalition of voters. However, we recognize we aren’t there yet and many issues are supported primarily by opposing special interest groups. When this happens all we can do is research the groups in question and try to determine their motivations, along with the impacts of the legislation or ballot measures they’re backing.
Executive Director, Clean Slate Now
One of the most controversial ballot measures Coloradans will be voting on this November is Amendment 69, also known as Colorado Care. In short, Colorado Care would establish a statewide system to provide healthcare for all Colorado residents. My goal is to give you an unbiased look at how the proponents (a committee called Colorado Care Yes) and opponents (a committee creatively titled Coloradans for Coloradans) of this ballot measure are funding their respective efforts.
A quick personal note before we jump into the numbers- I cannot help but notice the irony of writing about healthcare today. I’m at a hospital sitting by my father’s side as he fights for his life against an aggressive form of cancer. I’ve been following the debate over Colorado Care for around a year now, and it is a debate that I’m glad we’re having. Regardless of how you feel about this particular amendment, I hope we can all agree that our healthcare system is broken. It costs far too much and it falls short for far too many people. It certainly fell short for my dad. Personally I’m open to a wide array of potential solutions, as long as we are debating our options in good faith and earnestly working on changing this system for the better. People’s lives depend on it.
Colorado Care Yes has raised around $782,000 to support this ballot measure. Coloradans for Coloradans has raised just over $4,000,000 to defeat the measure. How has the opposition managed to raise 5 times as much as the folks behind Colorado Care? Let’s compare the contributions received from individuals with contributions from non-individuals (corporations, PACs, etc.) for both of these committees. First we’ll examine that $4 million raised by Coloradans for Coloradans:
Over 98% of that $4 million comes from non-individuals; this money is from corporations, PACs, and various other interest groups, which we will breakdown further. Now, let’s look at this same metric for the Colorado Care Yes committee.
It’s interesting that these pie charts are almost perfect mirror images of each other. From this single metric, we can plainly see that the opposition to Colorado Care is funded almost exclusively by corporations and interest groups, and the pro-Colorado Care folks are funded almost exclusively by individuals. Already we can make some sense of the fundraising disparity.
Before we break down these contributions to try to determine the motives of the donors behind these committees, let’s do some averaging:
The Colorado Care Yes committee has received over 4,000 separate donations with an average size of around $160. The Coloradans for Coloradans committee has received under 400 separate contributions with an average donation of around $10,000.
Next I want to further analyze the non-individual donations for the Coloradans for Coloradans committee and maybe we can shed some light on their motives. Here’s a list of the top ten donors:
|KP FINANCIAL SVCS OPS||Business||$500,000.00|
|UNITED HEALTHCARE SERVICES, INC.||Business||$450,000.00|
|HEALTHONE SYSTEM SUPPORT||Business||$200,000.00|
|MOUNTAIN WESt LOCKTON COMPANIES,||LLC||$100,000.00|
|CIGNA HEALTH AND LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY||Business||$60,000.00|
This is the smoking gun. First, we could see that the opposition to Colorado Care has raised a large amount of money, then we could see that the money is coming almost exclusively from a small number corporations and interest groups, and finally we can see that they are large insurance companies who stand to lose money if Colorado Care passes. The insurance company Anthem is alone responsible for a whopping 25% of this committee’s funds. Anthem is based in Indiana and reported an annual profit of $2.5 billion last year on $79 billion in revenue. Now let’s look at the top 10 biggest contributors to the Colorado Care Yes committee:
Based on this data, I believe it’s fair to say that Colorado Care Yes is financed primarily by thousands of people in Colorado sending in modest amounts, with a handful of generous contributions that were likely necessary to get the 95,000 signatures needed to put the amendment on the ballot. Colorado Care, and healthcare in general, is a complicated issue that deserves a vigorous and informed debate. While it takes money for both sides to participate in that debate, corporations spend orders of magnitude more than groups of people could ever hope to raise. This often prevents an even, rational debate from taking place.
Whether you support or oppose this measure, I hope we can all see the danger here. By allowing companies to spend unlimited amounts of money on and against these ballot measures, we’ve given them de facto veto power over any legislation they perceive to be a threat to their revenue stream. Even if you agree with them this time around, the larger problem is corporations and interest groups manipulating the political process to protect or grow their bottom line.
This is the second article in a series we’re calling “Following the Money” where we investigate the funding sources in support or opposition of ballot measures. If you want to stay up to date please get in our contact list here. For the source of these numbers visit the Colorado Secretary of State’s website here.
Clean Slate Now, Executive Director
This November Coloradans will not only vote for a new President, but we will also decide on several ballot measure questions. Many of these ballot measures deal with complex subjects that engender passionate debate and discussion. While disagreement is a necessary part of discourse, problems arise when one side of an issue has access to enormous financial resources and the opposition does not. As long as special interest groups can spend unlimited money in lieu of gaining real support from the people, our system will always favor the wealthiest side of an issue. At Cleanslatenow.org we are dedicated to creating a democracy that is free from the political inequities that plague a system financed by unlimited, untraceable money.
One way we can push back against these special interest groups is to follow the money being spent for or against these ballot measures. Our goal isn’t to take sides, but to illuminate the unequal fundraising methods and potential motives behind some of the ballot measures.
First up is Amendment 71. This amendment would amend Colorado’s constitution in order to, wait for it, make it more difficult to amend the constitution. Here’s how- In Colorado one way we can amend our constitution is to collect roughly 98,000 signatures from registered voters over a 6 month period. If that is done successfully the ballot measure question is placed on the ballot for the people to decide. If a majority of voters (50% +1) vote yes, the amendment is adopted. Amendment 71 would make this process more difficult in two ways. First, it would require that 2% of the total signatures be collected from all 35 of the Colorado Senate Districts; secondly, it would require 55% of votes for an amendment to be successful (except when the vote is to repeal a part of the constitution).
There are certainly people who believe in this amendment. You may even be tempted to think there are huge amounts of people supporting it because the committee currently sending out supportive mailers has so far raised $28 million dollars. The truth is that wide-ranging public support is not why they were able raise so much money. Who is really behind this effort? All you have to do is follow the money.
The committee with the big money supporting this amendment is called “Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence”. Let’s take a look at their top donors. These donors represent 92% of the $28 million raised. To see the source of these figures for yourself, visit the Colorado Secretary of State’s page here.
|ANADARKO PETROLEUM CORP||$10,665,235.00|
|NOBLE ENERGY INC||$9,115,235.00|
|WHITING OIL & GAS CORPORATION||$1,550,000.00|
|BAYSWATER EXPLORATION & PRODUCTION||$1,525,000.00|
|COLORADANS FOR RESPONSIBLE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT||$556,605.00|
|SYNERGY RESOURCES CORPORATION||$450,000.00|
|EXTRACTION OIL & GAS||$400,000.00|
|PIONEER NATURAL RESOURCES||$300,000.00|
Remember that current requirement for Constitutional amendments that requires 98,000 signatures before they can even make that ballot? It turns out that collecting enough signatures to pack a Broncos game is no small feat, especially if the effort is made up of people who don’t have millions of dollars to spend. In fact, it is so difficult that several potential amendments dealing with the oil and gas industry didn’t collect enough signatures to make the ballot. These amendments would have restricted the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in various ways. While they weren’t successful in getting on the ballot, let alone passing, what they DID do is scare the daylights out of the oil and gas industry. The reason so many oil and gas companies (many from outside of Colorado) want to make our constitution more difficult to amend is because they want to make it harder for anti-fracking amendments to pass. It’s really that simple.
Whether or not you think the oil and gas industry should be subject to additional regulations, or whether you believe the constitution should be more difficult to amend or not, the injustice here is the fact that the voters of Colorado don’t have $28 million dollars to spend to wage an equally persuasive campaign.
The real discussion we need to have on this issue won’t happen if one side has an oil and gas financed megaphone capable drowning out all opposition. This industry is using its enormous financial reserves to push a ballot measure on Coloradans who don’t have access to the same financial resources. This is what democratic inequality looks like and this is a prime example of why all of us have to invest in fixing the way we finance our political campaigns.
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Voting is important for a working democracy. Here are some famous quotes and slogans on the importance of voting. (Thanks to Niki Bornes for originally compiling this list).
We could shout it from the rooftops on a daily basis, but don’t take it from us. Take it from these guys and gals (you may have heard of a few):
“The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” – Lyndon B. Johnson (36th U.S. President)
“A man without a vote is a man without protection.” – Lyndon B. Johnson (36th U.S. President)
“Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote.” – William E. Simon (63rd U.S. Secretary of Treasury, Philanthropist)
“Always vote on principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” – John Quincy Adams (6th U.S. President)
“Ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors to bullets.” Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. President)
“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. President)
“To vote is like the payment of a debt, a duty never to be neglected, if its performance is possible.” – Rutherford B. Hayes (19th U.S. President)
“A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” – John F. Kennedy (35th U.S. President)
“I am sure that every one of my colleagues – Democrat, Republican, and Independent – agrees with that statement. That in the voting booth, everyone is equal.” – Barbara Boxer (Democratic Senator – CA)
“The future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th U.S. President)
“Those who stay away from the election think that one vote will do no good: ‘Tis but one step more to think one vote will do no harm. – Ralph Waldo Emerson (Author)
“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd U.S. President)
“Although our interests as citizens vary, each one is an artery to the heart that pumps life through the body politic, and each is important to the health of democracy.” – Bill Moyers (Journalist, TV host)
“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” – Pericles (Prominent Greek Statesmen)
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