Millionaires' initiatives fall with a thud
Rocky Mountain News
November 6, 2002
By Todd Hartman
The biggest spenders backing statewide ballot initiatives watched their issues
fall badly, their bulging wallets failing to sway voters.
Three multimillionaires pushed Amendments 28, 29, 30 and 31 onto the ballot, but
found big money couldn't do the trick.
But a fourth wealthy player did find success. She spent $3 million to fight
Amendment 31, the initiative to eliminate bilingual education.
The other three initiatives backed by big individual donors would have remade
the state's electoral process, first by making it far easier to register to
vote, second by making it easier to cast a ballot and finally by allowing
candidates to get on primary ballots via petition instead of the traditional
caucus system. All three were trounced at the polls.
The big money fueled what pollsters called a major development in Colorado
politics: issues without a groundswell of public support, but with major
potential impact, each thrust in front of voters by a single rich person.
Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said the results are a setback for "ballot
entrepreneurs" and said they show that even big money can't move voters on
issues they don't perceive as significant.
"There was very little on-the-ground support, in many of the cases the
(political) parties opposed the amendments, the voters never really
fundamentally understood what the problem was," Ciruli said. "If it's not
broken, don't fix it."
Here's a look at the four initiatives and the big donors associated with each:
• Businessman Rutt Bridges contributed $1.54 million toward efforts to pass
Amendments 28 and 29 - including the money paid for signature-gathering needed
to get the measures on the ballot.
Amendment 28 would have required county clerks to send absentee ballots to all
active voters before each election.
Amendment 29 would have let candidates get on the primary ballot by gathering
petitions, doing away with the long-standing caucus system by which political
parties gather neighborhood by neighborhood to designate their standard-bearers.
Bridges, a geophysicist and chairman of Quest International Management in
Colorado, also has backed efforts to limit telemarketing.
Bridges is head of the Denver-based Bighorn Center for Public Policy, a think
• Internet millionaire Jared Polis spent $1.1 million to promote Amendment 30,
which would have allowed people to register to vote on Election Day. Critics
said the measure opened the door to voter fraud.
Polis is well-known for funding his political ambitions. He spent $1 million of
money to successfully campaign for his seat on the state Board of Education in
The campaign to pass Amendment 30 has included television commercials starring
semiretired Denver Broncos star Terrell Davis.
• Amendment 31, the anti-bilingual education initiative, had its way paid onto
the ballot by California businessman Ron Unz, who spent hundreds of thousands of
dollars to gather signatures.
Patricia Stryker, an heiress from Fort Collins, donated $3 million to the
campaign against 31.
Stryker's donation provided a television advertising blitz that Unz and
Amendment 31 backers couldn't match.