Published August 1st, 2022 at 11:25 AM3 minute read
It’s been hard to avoid: yard signs, robocalls, postcards in the mail, Facebook ads and commercials on TV and YouTube. All urging Kansans to vote Aug. 2 on the Kansas abortion amendment that would add language to state’s constitution to take away a state constitutional right to an abortion.
The amendment was placed on the ballot long before the news broke in May of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that established abortion as a right protected by the U.S. Constitution.
But when the draft opinion leaked showing that the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn Roe, abortion rights became a national debate again – and Kansas voters would be the first in the country to vote on abortion rights once the battle shifted to the states.
Money and messaging flowed in with the goal of influencing Kansas voters, who remain closely divided on the issue. Two organizations formed to campaign on either side raised — and spent — more than $11 million between them since the start of the year – most of it on political ads.
With the election days away and many Kansas voters still to cast their deciding ballot, here is a look at who is behind messaging on both sides of the campaign.
Catholic churches, conferences and affiliated organizations funded nearly two-thirds of the $5.4 million spent by the Value Them Both campaign in 2022, and gave the campaign nearly three-fourths of all the money it raised this year. Unlike with partisan political candidates, federal tax regulations allow churches to donate to and campaign on ballot measures.
Of the nearly $3.5 million funneled to the campaign by Catholic donors this year, $2.45 million came from the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. The archdiocese is the largest single donor to either campaign.
The remaining $1 million funneled from Catholics came from around the state — the Catholic Diocese of Wichita gave $550,000, the Kansas Catholic Conference gave $275,000 and other individual congregations throughout Kansas gave over $200,000.
The Value Them Both campaign spent $4.5 million on advertising and marketing to create messages encouraging voters to vote in support of the amendment. Of that, $3.6 million went to SRCP Media, a political advertising firm that creates TV ads for Republican politicians like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Value Them Both also spent over $500,000 with the Prosper Group, a Republican digital advertising agency, and nearly $300,000 with Firepit PR, a Republican communications operation out of Shawnee.
Catholic-aligned advocacy organizations directly supported other campaigns besides Value Them Both that released their own ads.
Almost all of the $500,000 raised by the Do Right PAC, founded by former U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, came from CatholicVote, which in turn posted only $5,000 in expenses on its own ethics report. The Do Right PAC funded an ad supporting the amendment that features Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker.
In total, those who support the abortion amendment gave $6.65 million to at least nine organizations in support of the campaign, and spent more than $7.1 million.
The Sixteen Thirty Fund, a left-leaning political action committee, gave $1.38 million to Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the campaign organization established to oppose the Kansas abortion amendment. The fund, a so-called “dark money” group that does not disclose its donors, funnels money to Democrat and Democrat-aligned candidates and causes.
Though the Sixteen Thirty Fund gave the largest single donation to Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, Planned Parenthood’s umbrella of affiliated organizations gave more money overall, $1.49 million.
Together, those donations accounted for just over 40% of the $6.4 million raised by Kansans for Constitutional Freedom this year.
Other groups who support abortion rights who contributed $100,000 or more include the American Civil Liberties Union, NARAL Pro-Choice America and The North Fund, a political action fund that supports left-leaning causes. The Center for Reproductive Rights, which also supported the lawsuit that resulted in the 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that preceded the Kansas abortion amendment, gave $125,000.
More than $1.6 million of the money raised by Kansans for Constitutional Freedom this year came from 18 individual donors, each of whom gave between $10,000 and $1 million. The remaining $800,000 raised came from thousands of individual donors from across the country, including Kansas.
Most of Kansans for Constitutional Freedom’s $5.7 million in 2022 expenditures was spent on campaigning services and advertising, including a more than $4 million payout to GMMB Inc. It is owned by Democratic political communications heavyweight Jim Margolis and has offices in Washington, D.C., Seattle and San Francisco.
Organizations, advocates and political groups raised more than $7.66 million this year in opposition to the Kansas abortion amendment, with that money spread across at least 21 organizations who filed paperwork with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.
For eight of the ethics filings, it was not immediately clear which side of the vote the filers supported.
Miranda Moore covers the Kansas Statehouse and state government for The Wichita Beacon, where this story first appeared.