Wednesday, February 24, 2010

National Group FairVote $ Promoting Instant Runoff Voting - outside influence on local elections

The clamor for instant runoff voting comes from outside groups. Just look at the money that pro IRV groups spend on lobbying. Small jurisdictions are no match for the big money and slick sales pitches used to promote instant runoff voting. This week a Vermont news-paper reports on the outside money being spent to try to retain instant runoff voting in Burlington.

Burlington IRV draws outside money Wednesday, February 24, 2010 The group fighting to retain instant-runoff voting for mayor in Burlington, 50 Percent Matters, is funded largely by non-Burlington groups.

About 78 percent of the $14,819 the group has raised comes from sources from outside Burlington. That includes $5,000 from the nonprofit advocacy organization Vermont Public Interest Research Group and $6,500 from Fairvote, a Takoma, Md., group that supports election reform.

Learn more about outside groups' dollars spent on lobbying for instant runoff voting in Davis, CA., and Burlington VT, Minneapolis MN, Pierce Co WA, and Oakland CA. From data we've unearthed so far, FairVote has spent approx $65,000 at least on the promotion of IRV just in Pierce County Washington:

Here's some data from the 2005, 2006 and 2007 990 filings found at And a recent news article.

FairVote donated $22,000 to support a political campaign in Pierce Co WA:

Pierce charter amendment supporters, opponents squabble over campaign cash
Posted By David Wickert on October 15, 2009. State Public Disclosure Commission records show Citizens Against Rigging the System, which opposes the charter amendments, has accepted $22,000 from Fair Vote, a Maryland nonprofit. According to its web site, the group advocates for election law changes it believes will increase voter participation and give voters “more meaningful ballot choices.”

Fair Vote has contributed more than 80 percent of the money raised by Citizens Against Rigging the System.

Hays says the contributions undermine the principal that “local issues should be decided by local people.” He contends Fair Vote has not disclosed its contributors, so voters don’t know who’s ultimately behind the contributions. And he suggests the contributions are illegal because Fair Vote is a nonprofit and can’t support a political campaign.

According to FairVote's 2007 990 form, page 17 dollar support to Sarasota FL, Callam Co WA, Aspen, Co, and Pierce Co WA:

FairVote engaged in direct lobbying in several instances:

We supported with minimal expenses a ballot measure on instant runoff voting in Springfield (IL.) in the spring of 2007 and spent $18,400 in direct support of ballot measures for instant runoff voting in Sarasota (FL) and Clallam County (WA)in November 2007 and support through staff time, primarily that of our instant runoff voting program director and a full-time field organizer in Sarasota. We spent much more limited amount of staff time to support additional ballot measures on instant runoff voting in Aspen (CO) and Pierce COunty (WA) - the Aspen money primarily in the form of the executive director's advocacy of the city council in its deliberations to place the measure on the ballot.

FairVote spent $6,250 to fund lobbying activity for consultants in Vermont on instant runoff voting legislation. A limited amount of the time of FairVote's executive director was also devoted to this project.

According to FairVote's 2006 990 form, page 34:

FairVote engaged in direct lobbying in several instance:

We allocated a total of $43,419 to campaigns and organizations that supported passage of Charter Amendment Three for instant runoff voting in Pierce County, Washington. We had additional in-kind contributions of staff time and list purchases of more than $10,000 to that campaign.

We allocated $15,000 to a campaign to adopt ranked voting methods (instant runoff voting for some offices and choice voting for others) in Minneapolis.

We provided gifts of $5,500 to the campaign for choice voting in Davis, California and some staff time to this campaign.

We allocated just under $5,000 to a campaign for instant runoff voting in Oakland, California. Earlier in the year, a consultant was paid for work in California that included some efforts to lobby the Oakland city council to place instant runoff voting on the ballot.

We worked with consultants in Vermont on instant runoff voting, with half of the time involved with lobbying the legislature on legislation to establish instant runoff voting
for congressional offices.

And FairVote's 2005 990

FairVote engaged in a limited amount of direct lobbying - a total of less than $6,000 --in several circumstances detailed as follows:

More than half of the year's direct lobbying related to enacting instant runoff voting in Burlington, Vermont. First, instant runoff voting was on the ballot as a charter amendment in the city in March 2005. We donated $2,000 to the Voters' Choice Coalition that worked to pass the amendment and paid $300 to part-time consultant Terry Bouricius to assist the campaign. The legislature then needed to approve the city's charter change. We used $500 to pay two consultants (Terry Bouricius and Jesse Rosado) to lobby successfully for the bill's passage.

Instant runoff voting also was placed on the November 2005 ballot by the city council of Takoma Park, where our organization is based. Our executive director spent time making the case for instant runoff voting and for a proposal to count ballots with paper ballots to the city council and was joined by staff members David Moon and Ryan O'Donnell and program associate Adam Johnson in putting a limited amount of time into assisting the local campaign committee.. FairVote also donated $200 directly to the local campaign committee.

FairVote supported several congressional bills on its website, and put a limited time into lobbying on behalf of proposed constitutional amendments HJR 28 and H$ 36. ...California consultant Chris Jerdonek spent a limited time lobbying the Alameda County Council to allow the City of Berkely to implement instant runoff voting.

What happens when money is spent equally on providing pros and cons of this type of voting method?

In British Columbia, the government funded both the pro and anti STV groups, and - and the majority of voters said no to STV.

Single Transferrable Vote Defeated Fair and Square in BC - Pro and Con Groups Funded by Provincial Govt Equally June 9, 2009 ...The provincial government gave $500,000 to two groups, British Columbians for BC-STV (aka Fair Voting B.C.) and No STV, which ran the official “yes” and “no” campaigns for this year’s referendum.

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