A ballot initiative that would scrap Massachusetts’ voting system in favor of “ranked choice” voting is being fueled primarily by wealthy, out-of-state donors including the son of left wing billionaire George Soros and the daughter-in-law of media baron Rupert Murdoch, records show.
More than half of the $5.6 million in donations to Yes on Question 2 has come from one source — the Houston, Texas-based Action Now Initiative, founded by hedge fund billionaire John Arnold. He is a former executive for the bankrupt Enron Corp.
Jonathan Soros, CEO of New York-based JS Capital Management, a private investment firm, contributed $100,000 to the ranked choice voting cause earlier this month, according to the most recent campaign finance records.
Kathryn Murdoch, married to one of the sons of Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch, kicked in $500,000 to Yes on 2 earlier this year. Murdoch, an activist who split politically with her father-in-law, is listed as the president of Quadrivium, an organization that supports solutions for “critical societal problems.”
Other major out of state donors to Yes on 2 are Eric Mindich, former hedge fund manager and Goldman Sachs executive, who recently donated $249,000 to the controversial ballot question; and Katherine Gehl, CEO of Gehl Foods, who funneled $250,050 of her fortune to the ranked choice voting proposal, record show.
Wealthy Massachusetts donors include Celtics owner and Bain Capital exec Stephen Pagliuca, who contributed $100,000, and Harvard Business School professor and author Michael Porter, a $250,000 contributor.
Ranked choice voting would replace the system in Massachusetts under which the top vote getter is declared the winner. Voters would instead “rank” candidates on the ballot in order of preference and if no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the last place candidate is eliminated and the votes are recounted until a candidate gets above 50%.
Yes on 2 organizers describe their multi-million dollar campaign as “citizen led” but the finance records show the vast bulk of the group’s money has come from just a few, rich sources like Action Now Initiative, which has funneled $2.9 million to the ranked choice voting effort.
“They’re a foundation that’s dedicated to expanding democratic reforms and ranked choice voting is a priority of theirs,” said Michael Meehan, CEO of Squared Communications, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm representing Yes On 2. “It’s a family foundation that’s committed to majority wins so we’re happy to have their support.”
While Yes on 2 bills itself as “non-partisan,” the ballot question has been endorsed by top Democrats like U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Attorney General Maura Healey.
Yes on Question 2 has spent more than $3 million to date on TV, radio and Internet ads and high-priced consultants like the Dewey Square Group, and has paid for numerous polls, focus groups and voter mapping services.
Meehan said the ranked choice initiative has more than 3,000 contributors and got nearly 170,000 signatures to get on the ballot.
“For a ballot initiative that’s a pretty impressive amount,” he said.
The battle over Question 2 is shaping into a severe mismatch.
The group opposing Question 2 has spent and raised almost no money, according to the latest campaign filings.
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