Measure D: The latest on who’s funding each campaign, visualized

Graphic of Measure D contributions
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

With a surge in the past month, No Way Greenway closed the gap in its fundraising. Lookout details the whos and the how manys behind the numbers as the June 7 vote nears.

The rail-trail dispute, aka Measure D, isn’t only the most contentious issue to come before Santa Cruz County voters in a while. It’s also become one of the most expensive — with almost $800,000 raised through May 21.

Thursday marked the filing deadline for the latest set of campaign finance reports with the Santa Cruz County Clerk. Measure D campaign leaders worked on those into the evening, filing them after 6 p.m.

All totaled, Yes Greenway and No Way Greenway have raised more than $794,200, according to those reports. The latest reports show all campaign spending, beginning in 2021 through May 21. While there is little record-keeping for historical comparison, it’s clearly one of the most expensive races in county history.

The yes campaign has outraised no by about $131,000, having brought in $462,724 in monetary and non-monetary contributions. The no campaign has raised $331,476 by the same counts.

Each side maintains funds for what will be a last-minute push for votes. From the reports, No Way Greenway had cash on hand of $54,908 through May 21. Yes Greenway had $31,351.

In the most recent filing period of about a month, from April 24 through May 21, No Way Greenway raised $71,447.83 in monetary contributions. Yes Greenway raised $4,063.15.

That big difference in fundraising over the past month means that No Way Greenway closed the gap. That gap, which had been more than $200,000, is now $140,000 through the end-of-April report.

“These numbers demonstrate that this is a grassroots campaign driven by the work and contributions of hundreds of local residents and volunteers,” Matt Farrell, co-chair of No Way Greenway, told Lookout.

Yes Greenway leader Bud Colligan offered his own explanation on timing: “We had a budget and raised our money early to be able to predictably plan what we could spend.”

The fundraising began last year, and the arms race has grown since then.

The yes campaign, which gathered signatures to put Measure D on the June 7 ballot, received its first contribution in July 2021. The no campaign received its first contribution in October 2021.

Both have raised funds from both large donors and small, and both measure their median donations at around $50.

While state and local law cap the amount that can be given to candidates for office, there is no cap on monetary support for measures, such as D. (For candidates, the limit is $500.)

Readers will recognize some of the names of prime donors as key advocates on the issue. For instance, Mark Mesiti-Miller, co-chair of No Way Greenway, leads the list of funders, having provided $25,000; his wife, Donna Murphy, has provided $25,049. Bud Colligan, identified in public filings under his given name of John, is among the top Yes Greenway funders, at $25,000.

Others have taken less public stances but make their statements through their funding. Many are well-known names in the community.

On the yes side: Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard, Looker founder Lloyd Tabb, philanthropist Rowland Rebele and Driscoll’s CEO Miles Reiter, among others.

On the no side: education consultant Sally Arnold, philanthropists Dan and Jill Dion, and Roaring Camp Railroads, operator of the popular local trains.

Both sides have spent most of their funds already, with some left in the coffers — as shown in the first chart below — for the final 10 day-stretch of the campaign. Accompanying the spending — visible to all of us in advertising in local media and, of course, the ubiquitous lawn signs and endless direct mail flyers — are the charges inevitably associated with the money.

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Both sides say their fundraising — and the ways they’ve raised the funds — show their superior community support.

In fact, as this contest draws to a conclusion, there’s increasing similarity to their fundraising profiles, in the amount raised and in the amount of their high-dollar contributions.

Of course, amid an often-bitter campaign, they critique their opponents’ fundraising as well.

No Way Greenway makes a point of its relative support, pointing to the fact that it has more contributors overall, displayed in the second chart. Further, it has pointed to the large number of five-figure contributors who have funded Yes Greenway, pointing to “big money” and “tech money” applying unfair influence.

Yes Greenway makes a point that it asked no single donor to give more than $25,000. It was able to bring in 10 of those donors, and one who gave an extra $3,000, beyond the $25,000, as shown in the third chart.

Why? “We didn’t want any single donor to be more than 5% to 6% of the total money raised,” Colligan told Lookout.

Below, Lookout has crunched the numbers, as turned in to the county clerk, in PDF format, to provide a clear public view of the support, particularly around major points of contention on fundraising, which include: (1) the amounts raised; (2) the number of contributors; (3) the percentage of overall contributions provided by top donors: