March 29, 2016

California Majority Report: Reality Check: “Dam Rail Initiative” Has Been Derailed

Proponents of the ballot measure that would rewrite the state’s water laws under the guise of an attack on high speed rail are in a dark, un-spinnable place. Sadly, that has not stopped them from trying to alter political reality.

Witness their memo to reporters yesterday saying they are “on track for the ballot” when, in fact, their measure has been derailed. The memo can only be seen as an effort to mollify donors who have seen their contributions wasted on an ineffective, poorly-managed effort.

    • Here are the facts: Backers of the measure, a handful of San Joaquin Valley agricultural interests, have raised less than $500,000, including less than $200,000 in the past month. This is far short of the $2 million that they told the Los Angeles Times in mid-February they would have on hand to qualify the initiative for the 2016 ballot.
    • If we take them at their word of having 300,000 signatures on hand, that’s about one-third of the 585,407 necessary signatures they will need to qualify the measure – not half of what they need.
    • They claim they “reserve the right” to qualify for the 2016 election and say they may do so with volunteer efforts by April 26, 2016. However, no ballot measure has qualified with volunteer efforts since 1988. “California Water 4 All” is not a membership organization and has no organized statewide support to sustain a volunteer signature gathering effort.
    • The campaign’s signature gathering firm, Arno Petition Consultants, has a record of failing to qualify ballot measures (think the well-funded “Six Californias and a hospital funding measure). The company had more than three months to gather the signatures for this measure. It fell far short.
    • The ballot measure has until July 25, 2016 to qualify for the 2018 ballot. Again, the climb is steep. Skyrocketing costs for signatures, combined with empty campaign coffers and no statewide organizing presence, makes a last-ditch effort for signatures highly unlikely.
    • Oddly, the campaign has failed to file any reports with the Secretary of State for its 2016 expenditures (including signature gathering, social media, PR, organizing, and consulting).

The truth: this water grab measure is circling the drain. It is yet another example of a special interest manipulation of the California initiative system that failed.