Whoa: Backers Of Conservation/Marijuana Measures Paid Big Bucks To Circulate Petitions
When most people think about an initiated measure movement they think of groups of citizens volunteering to collect signatures to put an issue on the ballot for a debate and vote. That perception has a lot of populist appeal.
Less appealing is the idea of groups pouring money into professional signature-gathering efforts in a process that seems less populist and grassroots than a way for deep pockets to short-circuit the legislative process.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Some of North Dakota’s new group of voter initiatives had to pay people to circulate their petitions.
A consulting firm was paid $145,000 to run the signature-gathering effort for a proposal to put some of North Dakota’s oil tax collections into a conservation fund.
A campaign to put a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot spent about $45,000 on petition carriers.
There’s nothing illegal about this, nor is this anything new. I’m aware of groups who have hired temp workers and the like in the past to circulate petitions, but the use of such measures (that I’m aware of anyway) is usually pretty limited.
I’ve never heard of anything approach the expenditure of five and even six-figure sums on a petition drive.
Is this something we should be worried about? I’ve never given it a lot of thought, but it in my experience it’s easy to get people to sign petitions. For better or worse, most people will sign what’s put in front of them without giving a lot of thought to what they’re putting on the ballot, so the challenge for petition circulators during the signature gathering phase isn’t so much making the case for their issue as just getting petitions in front of as many people as possible.
And if you’ve got a budget for petition circulation that is tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars, getting an issue on the ballot becomes a breeze.
It’s not surprising that big-money interests would want to pour money into the conservation measure (the motivations for the medicinal marijuana issue are less clear). That measure would create a slush fund packed with as much as $160 million per biennium in oil tax revenues which, in turn, could be funneled into environmentalist non-profit groups.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars investment into a political move that could pay off in the millions is a good deal for those groups.Tags: initiatmed measures, North Dakota News, petitions