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Millions roll in to Nevada ballot initiatives from unions, Uber and dark money groups

Left-leaning “dark money” groups gave more than $750K in the first quarter, and the PAC trying to undo the A’s stadium deal reported few large-dollar donations.
Eric Neugeboren
Eric Neugeboren
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Campaign FinanceElection 2024Elections

The political action committees behind a slew of potential Nevada ballot questions received nearly $8 million from January to March, with millions of dollars coming from the Clark County Education Association and Uber and six-figure contributions from left-leaning “dark money” groups.

In addition to the five initiatives guaranteed to be on the 2024 ballot, there are several active ballot petitions in Nevada, which would either be posed to voters in November or the Legislature next year if supporters gather enough signatures and pass legal scrutiny. These proposals include efforts to enshrine abortion rights in Nevada’s Constitution, cap attorney fees at 20 percent in state civil cases and allow teachers the right to strike.

The groups supporting (or opposing) these initiatives were required to submit, by Monday, campaign finance reports for the first three months of 2024, which shed light on how much money they have raised and how much they spent on anything from advertising and polling to consultants. The initiatives must receive at least 102,362 signatures — split evenly across the four congressional districts — to move forward. 

There is no limit on how much a person or organization can donate to a state-level PAC in Nevada, and PACs are not legally required to report their cash on hand amount or donations less than $1,000. 

A’s stadium public funding repeal

The PAC behind the referendum to overturn the public financing deal to bring the Oakland Athletics to Las Vegas only reported raising $3,000 (all from donors in California) in the first quarter. 

Schools over Stadiums reported spending more than $23,000 during the period, all to the law firm that is helping the group appeal a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of its petition language, which is still pending in the state Supreme Court. It’s not yet clear whether the measure will appear on the ballot because of the pending legal challenge and signature requirements.

The PAC also held a fundraising event on the final day of the reporting period where a donor committed $100,000 in matching funds, but a representative from the PAC — which the Nevada State Education Association is supporting — said it did not receive the money raised until after the reporting period closed.

The representative added that the group’s average donation is $91.67, with around $161,000  in cash on hand as of the end of March.

Uber and CCEA

The Clark County Education Association poured $2 million in the first quarter into an initiative to allow licensed public school educators to go on strike, which is currently illegal under state law. These donations represent, by far, the union’s largest donations related to a ballot initiative, with the previous single-donation record being $250,000 from the union for a 2020 effort to raise the state sales tax.

It’s not yet clear whether the measure will appear on the ballot, and there are no active legal challenges, the union said.

The other major donation this quarter came from Uber, which contributed $4 million to the proposal to cap attorney fees at 20 percent of all awards and settlements in Nevada civil cases. The initiative is being challenged in court, and it’s unclear whether voters will weigh in on it in November.

The ride-sharing company’s previous highest donation in Nevada was $25,000.

‘Dark money’ contributions to abortion, payday petitions

A major source of donations to ballot initiatives this quarter came from a national, left-leaning “dark money” group called the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a nonprofit that does not have to disclose its donors and spent nearly $800 million on progressive causes from 2020 to 2022. The group previously gave $6.25 million to the PAC behind a 2018 ballot initiative to automate voter registration at the DMV.

In the first quarter of 2024, Sixteen Thirty Fund gave $500,000 to Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom, the group leading the effort to enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution. Although the ballot measure language has cleared one legal hurdle, it has not yet formally qualified for the ballot.

The group’s $1.4 million haul in the quarter also included $500,000 from a separate dark money group called the Nevada Alliance and donations from several national abortion rights organizations. Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom raised $1.8 million last year — including a $1 million donation from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s nonprofit — and spent more than $2 million in the first quarter, mostly on consulting. 

The Sixteen Thirty Fund also gave $110,000 to Stop Predatory Lending NV, the nonprofit behind the proposal to place a 36 percent annual cap on the interest rates for certain categories of high-interest loans, including payday and title loans. The group also received $150,000 from the Hopewell Fund, another “dark money” nonprofit, for a total of $260,000 raised in the quarter.

The group is gathering signatures, and a judge approved a narrower version of the proposal last month.

A separate PAC called Nevadans for Financial Choice is opposing the high-interest loan initiative and raised $290,000 in the first quarter, with donations from various lending companies including Dollar Loan Center ($50,000), Checksmart Financial ($50,000) and Moneytree ($25,000). 

These businesses are regulated by the state’s Financial Institutions Division, but state law places no maximum cap on the interest rates that can be attached to a loan. 

Other petitions

Repair the Vote, a PAC led by former Nevada Republican Club president and former Clark County GOP Chair David Gibbs, received $100,000 from Allen Knudson, a Henderson resident who had not made a state political donation in six years, for its voter ID proposal. If successful, the initiative would require people voting in person to provide valid photo identification, and those voting by mail to provide a personally identifiable number — part of a driver’s license or Social Security number — alongside their signature. 

Though the petition overcame a legal challenge in February, the plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments surrounding the case on May 8.  A Repair the Vote representative did not provide information on the status of signature gathering.

The PAC supporting the question to strike the Nevada Board of Regents from the state Constitution received $40,000 in the first quarter. Len Jessup, the former UNLV president who feuded with the board, gave $2,500. The regents question is guaranteed to be on the ballot.

All quiet on the fundraising front

Fair Maps Nevada, a group that has proposed creating an independent redistricting commission to redraw the state’s congressional and legislative maps, did not file a campaign finance report for the first quarter. The legality of the proposal is also before the state Supreme Court, so it is unclear whether it will land on the general election ballot.

The groups supporting and opposing the proposal to adopt ranked choice voting in state elections — which is guaranteed to be on the November ballot — did not report raising any money in the first quarter. Nevada Voters First, which is supporting the ballot question, reported spending about $81,000 in the quarter.

This story was updated on 4/19/2024 at 8:28 a.m. to include new information about an appeal of a voter ID proposal. It was corrected at 10:41 a.m. to indicate matching funds that a donor committed for the Schools Over Stadiums referendum was $100,000.


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