The high cost of initiative campaigns

Washington can pretty much count on a multimillion-dollar battle on a statewide ballot measure every fall. This year is no exception. Supporters and opponents of Initiative 522, which deals with labeling of certain processed foods, already have pulled in around $4 million combined before the campaign ramps up. Will having millions assure victory? More often than not the side which shells out the most money succeeds, whether it’s passing or defeating a measure. Here are some highlights of initiative campaign spending since 1973, when the state first required public disclosure.

Most spending in support

Regardless of outcome

1. $20,115,326

Initiative 1183 (2011)

Privatize liquor sales

$12,351,656 spent by opponents

Yes: 58.7% No: 41.3%

2. $16,042,629

Initiative 1107 (2010)

End sales tax on candy and soda

$426,828 spent by opponents

Yes: 60.4% No: 39.6%

3. $14,784,515

Referendum 74 (2012)

Same-sex marriage

$2,975,561 spent by opponents

Yes: 53.7% No: 46.3%

4. $11,401,371

Initiative 1240 (2012)

Charter schools

$724,167 spent by opponents

Yes: 50.7% No: 49.3%

5. $9,513,197

Initiative 330 (2005)

Healthcare liability reform

$6,168,557 spent by opponents

Yes: 43.3% No: 56.7%

6. $6,259,692*

Referendum 48 (1997)

Publicly financed sports stadiums

$729,747 spent by opponents

Yes: 51.1% No: 48.9%

* Excludes $4.2 million paid by Paul Allen for cost of the special election

Most opposition spending

Regardless of outcome

1. $12,351,656

Initiative 1183 (2011)

Privatize liquor sales

$20,115,326 spent by supporters

Yes: 58.7% No: 41.3%

2. $11,526,117

Referendum 67 (2007)

Insurance reform

$3,912,555 spent by supporters

Yes: 56.7% No: 43.3%

3. $9,170,339

Initiative 1100 (2010)

Privatize liquor sales

$6,062,834 spent by supporters

Yes: 46.6% No: 53.4%

4. $6,639,957

Initiative 892 (2004)

Expand non-tribal gambling

$1,063,839 spent by supporters

Yes: 38.5% No: 61.5%

5. $6,168,557

Initiative 330 (2005)

Health-care liability reform

$9,513,197 spent by supporters

Yes: 43.3% No: 56.7%

6. $6,349,842

Initiative 1098 (2010)

Establish state income tax

$6,423,302 spent by supporters

Yes: 35.9% No: 64.1%

Lowest spending for passage

Successful campaigns

1. $14,006

Initiative 316 (1975)

Mandatory death penalty for first-degree murder

$3,227 spent by opponents

Yes: 69.1% No: 30.9%

2. $20,865

Initiative 345 (1977)

Eliminate sales tax on food

$10,994 spent by opponents

Yes: 54.0% No: 46.0%

3. $46,433

Initiative 601 (1993)

Limit tax increases

$2,050,779 spent by opponents

Yes: 51.2% No: 48.8%

Least spent to defeat a measure


Initiative 729 (2000)

Charter schools

$3,250,695 spent by supporters

Yes: 48.2% No: 51.8%

Sources: State Public Disclosure Commission, Secretary of State

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