If there was ever any doubt about Big Tobacco's intent to absolutely clobber the June 5 ballot initiative to increase California's tax on cigarettes, it went up in smoke at week's end as the campaign to defeat Proposition 29 added $15.9 million to its war chest in a single day.
That brings the total contributions to the No on 29 campaign to a whopping $39.7 million, with the election now one month away.
The lion's share of Friday's one-day bonanza came from tobacco giant Philip Morris, which wrote checks totaling more than $10.1 million through its various subsidiaries and remains the driving financial force behind the opposition effort. Tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds chipped in almost $5.5 million on Friday, which included $1.5 million through its subsidiary the American Snuff Company.
The No on 29 campaign didn't directly respond to questions about the new donations, instead issuing a statement pointing to various newspaper editorials opposing the initiative as proof of "growing support."
Republicans also donated big on Friday to the effort to defeat Prop 29, which would hike cigarette taxes by $1 a pack and earmark the money to new cancer research programs. More than $695,000 came from the California Republican Party -- a large sum for the state GOP, one that represents more than half the cash that the party's raised in all of 2012. An email to a party spokesperson hasn't yet been returned (this posting will be updated once it is).
And now, a statement of the obvious: the Yes on 29 campaign is getting outspent big time.
With total contributions now at a little more than $3.5 million (almost half of that a one-time check from cycling champion Lance Armstrong), Prop 29 supporters are being outspent by opponents by roughly a 10-1 margin.
Big statewide campaigns tend to rely heavily on TV ad blitzes, and this effort has more than enough resources to do so with the election less than five weeks away. At the time of its last campaign expense filing, the anti-Prop 29 coalition had already placed ads with most stations in the state's major TV markets (including with News10 KXTV). No doubt more is to come.
With only two initiatives on the June ballot -- and virtually no real spending by the other measure (Proposition 28's term limits modification) -- Big Tobacco may have the airwaves mostly to itself in trying to make its case to voters against the new tax.
In that kind of political environment, a piggy bank with close to $40 million in it could go a long, long way.