When it comes to money in current campaigning on proposals to revise Tennessee’s state constitution, opponents of change hold a lead on a measure dealing with abortion while proponents are ahead on two other propositions, according to new financial disclosures.
Amendment 1, which would effectively repeal a state Supreme Court decision and authorize the Legislature to enact more stringent restrictions on abortion, has become the most controversial of four proposed constitutional amendment and has prompted the most intense fundraising.
The Vote No on 1 campaign committee reported in a new financial disclosure, covering the period of July 1 through Sept. 30, that is has $1,587,821 cash on hand for spending in the weeks leading up to a statewide vote Nov. 4. The Yes on 1 committee reported a balance of $511,026
The No on 1 campaign has already spent about $350,000, reports show; the Yes on 1 committee about $400,000. . Both groups launched TV advertising last week, so spending on the ads is not reflected in the reports dated Sept. 30 and filed Friday.
Knoxville-based Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee provided $500,000 of donations to Vote No on 1 reported in the new disclosure and had contributed $190,000 earlier. Most other major contributions have come from other Planned Parenthood affiliates – including several outside Tennessee — and the American Civil Liberalities Union.
The amendment, if passed, would negate the 2000 Tennessee Supreme Court decision in a case known as Planned Parenthood vs. Sundquist that struck down Legislature-approved restrictions on abortion and held that the state constitution, as now written, provides women with a greater right to abortion than does the U.S. Constitution, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in the famous case of Roe vs. Wade.
The new Vote Yes on 1 disclosure shows the biggest single contribution as $50,000 from James Gregory of Bristol, a member of a family that made a fortune in founding King Pharmaceuticals Inc., then selling it, and has been active in financially supporting conservative political causes. Karen Burkardt, lead lobbyist of Tennessee Right to Life at the Legislature, has donated $35,000.
An affiliated non-profit group set up last year to launch fundraising efforts provided $20,000 in the most recent disclosure. Joseph E. “Ed” Albin, treasurer of Yes on 1 campaign committee, said the nonprofit affiliate, which is not required to disclose its donors, initially conducted educational efforts as well, but is no longer actively doing so.
Other donations to the Yes on 1 committee have mostly come from individuals, churches or Right to Life affiliates.
Earlier, Right to Life President Brian Harris said Vote Yes on 1 had a goal of raising and spending $2.5 million. Vote No on 1 leaders have said they hoped to raise and spend about $4 million by election day, Nov. 4.
Both groups reported significant “in kind” contributions as well – donations in forms other than cash. Yes on 1 reported $32,612 in in-kind donations on its latest report, the biggest being $25,000 for “professional services” furnished by Tennessee Right to Life. No on 1 reported $111,004 of in-kind donations, the largest being $70,000 from Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis for “personnel, travel, printing and miscellaneous expenses.”
Besides the two main Amendment 1 campaign committees, two smaller groups have registered to raising and spending money against passage and three to promote passage. One of the opposing groups, Tennessee Students Voting No on 1, reported spending about $13,647 in its only report and the other, Women Matter – Northeast Tennessee, reported $1,926 in spending. Both reported less than $1,000 cash on hand. The groups registered to support passage have reported no spending so far.
Amendment 2 would validate the current system of choosing Tennessee appeals court judges – initial appointment by the governor with voters given the chance to approve or reject his selections in a later retention election. It would add a new requirement that the governor’s choices be confirmed by the Legislature.
The Yes on 2 committee reported a cash on hand balance of $557,632 going into the final month of campaigning, having spent so far about $214,000. The biggest chunk of donations has come from Tennessee Business Partnership, a group of corporations set up earlier this year to promote business interests. The Business Partnership provided $250,000 in September and earlier had given $125,000. It also reported $30,000 in “in kind” donations in the last report.
Other donors to Yes on 2, which has Gov. Bill Haslam and former Gov. Phil Bredesen as co-chairmen, are mostly lawyers and law firms.
The Vote No on 2 committee reported just $2,250 in contributions and expenditures of $29.25.
Amendment 3 would prohibit the Legislature from ever enacting a tax on personal income. The Yes on 3 committee reported just $12,670 in cash spending and a $90.43 balance on Oct. 1, but $201,457 in “in-kind” donations by Pelopidas, LLC of St. Louis, Mo., which has been hosting a tour around the state by a 200-foot-long “airship” to promote passage of the amendment.
Citizens for Fiscal Sanity, the lead group opposing passage, reported a balance of $14,449 in its account after spending $8,529. Its biggest donor was the Tennessee Education Association, which contributed $5,000.
Amendment 4 would authorize veterans organizations such as the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans to hold fundraising events that involve some form of lottery-like gambling. Currently, other charitable organizations can hold such events – subject to legislative approval each year – but not veterans groups.
No campaign committees have been set up to either support or oppose passage of Amendment 4.