Pubdate: Wed, 29 Oct 2014
Source: Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Copyright: 2014 Sun-Sentinel Company
Author: Dan Sweeney, Staff writer
Page: 1B


Contributions Go to Both Sides of Amendment 2

Supporters and opponents of medical marijuana have received large 
donations to keep their messages going.

With one week to go before Election Day, supporters and opponents of 
medical marijuana have received large donations to keep their messages going.

For the main organization supporting Amendment 2, People United for 
Medical Marijuana, the new money has been enough that their message 
is finally airing in TV ads.

According to campaign finance records posted Friday, People United 
received five six-figure donations in October, making it the best 
month of the year for contributions to the medical marijuana cause.

Those contributions included a direct donation of TV advertising from 
the Morgan& Morgan lawfirm. The firm's founder, John Morgan, is the 
chairman of People United and the firm has been the organization's 
chief donor.

"We've been out-messaged till now," Ben Pollara, the campaign manager 
for People United, said Tuesday. "But we've been on TV a week in 
Orlando, Tampa yesterday, and Palm Beach today, tomorrow at the 
latest. With those three markets, we're covering about 60 percent of 
the state."

The ad won't air in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market because it's so 
expensive, Pollara added.

"You're always on a limited budget, campaigns are multimillion-dollar 
enterprises," he said. "But we've had a gangbusters' week of 
fundraising. We've had some new donors come to the table, and old 
donors kick in more money because we sense we're near victory and 
they renewed to push us across the finish line."

Donations included $150,000 from Drug Policy Action, a New York-based 
nonprofit that advocates for marijuana decriminalization.

Another $100,000 came from Daniel Lewis, brother of the late Peter 
Lewis, a billionaire who backed legalization efforts in Washington 
before his death late last year.

Another $370,000 came in two payments from Barbara Steifel, a Coral 
Gables heiress who has spent millions on Democratic and progressive causes.

But People United isn't alone in having wealthy backers donating to 
its campaign.

Drug Free Florida, the main opposing group to Amendment 2, has been 
almost entirely funded by Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. 
The well-known backer of Republican candidates and conservative 
issues dropped another $1 million on Drug Free Florida on Oct. 14, 
bringing his total donations to Drug Free Florida up to $5 million. 
To date, the organization has raised $5.8 million.

With all that money, Drug Free Florida has been on television since 
September and has spent almost $4.7 million on advertising.

The most recent polling data shows support for Amendment 2 at 61 
percent, just over the 60 percent threshold needed for the amendment 
to pass. It's dropped from 88 percent in August.

"We've said publicly that we took a hit," said Brian Franklin, a 
consultant with People United. "We were outspent 10 to 1 in the weeks 
prior to going on TV ourselves. The only thing we had at that time 
was our online program and now we have a bigger online program and a 
robust TV plan."

That online program has meant that, although TV viewers in Palm Beach 
County will be seeing pro-Amendment 2 ads for the first time this 
week, online, they're nothing new.

"The ads have been online since mid-September," Franklin said. "And 
3.2 million Florida voters have viewed those ads to completion." 
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