AZ a case-study in billionaire ballot spending

Tom Steyer. Photo courtesy NextGen Climate

The Arizona efforts of California billionaire Tom Steyer to bankroll an Arizona ballot measure to increase the renewable energy requirements on utilities was highlighted today in a report by the Center for Public Integrity on out-of-state billionaires influencing ballot measure elections across the country.

Using campaign finance data collected by the nonpartisan political encyclopedia Ballotpedia, CPI identified 25 billionaires who had invested a combined $70.7 million for initiative campaigns in 19 states where they do not reside.

That figure is more than 10 percent of the $648 million in disclosed ballot campaign spending that Ballotpedia has tracked in the U.S.

“And the total is likely an undercount of billionaires’ influence on this year’s ballot measures. It doesn’t include gifts from billionaire-led corporations, nor from nonprofits where the billionaires are among a multitude of backers, nor from nonprofits whose donors’ identities are unknown,” CPI reporter Liz Essley Whyte wrote.

Based on Ballotpedia’s numbers, CPI had Steyer spending $8.3 million on Proposition 127. However, when you take into account the money given to the Prop 127 campaign by NextGen Climate Action, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit Steyer controls and funds, the amount Steyer has pumped into Arizona skyrockets to $26.7 million.

Jim Small
Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.


  1. But Steyer’s spending has been transparent, unlike the dark money of corporate special interest groups groups, who are not only weighing in on the ballot initiatives but stopped certain initiatives from even appearing on the ballot.


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