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Missouri initiative campaigns confident of achieving signature goals


Three initiative campaigns say they are on track to submit signatures that would put measures to legalize abortion and sports wagering, and to increase the minimum wage, on Missouri’s ballot this year.

Campaign finance reports filed this week show more than $10 million, much of it from out-of-state organizations, has been raised to fuel the campaigns. Only one opposition group, seeking to prevent abortion rights from making the ballot, is active. And its resources, much of it from Catholic churches, total less than $100,000.

The reports, which were due Monday, show who is backing the ballot measures as campaigns prepare to deliver signatures by May 5. Some campaigns used the deadline to issue public statements showing confidence of success.

When Missourians for Constitutional Freedom announced plans to begin collecting signatures for its abortion rights initiative in mid-January, leaders estimated the campaign would need to raise $5 million to successfully gather enough signatures to make the ballot.

The report filed Monday, covering the first three months of the year, shows the campaign has raised $4.9 million. Additional reports of large contributions filed since April 1 show another $435,000 in contributions.

Of that amount, 3,206 individual Missourians have contributed $1.8 million. Of the top 15 donors, eight are from Missouri and gave $850,000. The seven donors who gave the most, making up more than half the total raised, are national advocacy organizations.

The largest single donor to the campaign is the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a liberal dark money organization based in Washington, D.C., that gave $1 million.

“We’re so grateful to the tens of thousands of Missourians who have chipped in, volunteered, and signed on to fuel our grassroots campaign that will end Missouri’s total abortion ban and put families — not politicians — back in charge of personal medical decisions,” Rachel Sweet, campaign manager, said in a news release.

The abortion rights proposal would amend the state constitution to protect abortion up to the point of fetal viability. It would also protect other reproductive health care, including contraceptive access, if approved by voters.

There were times in 2023 when it seemed like the campaign would fail to launch because of a lengthy court battle over the ballot language. Eventually, the Western District Court of Appeals struck down the ballot language written by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft as “replete with politically partisan language.”

That ruling, however, came only after months of wrangling over whether Attorney General Andrew Bailey could derail the initiative by refusing to certify the fiscal summary.

The opposition group, Missourians Stands With Women, has raised $84,567 to fund its “Decline to Sign” campaign, with $25,000 coming from Catholic dioceses and archdiocese and another $20,000 from Republican committees designed to elect GOP legislators.

The sports wagering campaign, organized by the state’s professional sports teams under the leadership of the St. Louis Cardinals, is being funded entirely by the two largest online sports wagering platforms, FanDuel and DraftKings.

The campaign, under the name Winning for Missouri Education, reported raising $4 million through March 31 and $2.1 since that date. The committee has spent $3.3 million, according to the report filed Monday.

The cost has been shared almost equally between the two online platforms.

The proposal would allow online platforms, major professional sports teams and the state’s licensed casinos to seek a sports wagering license. The net winnings would be taxed at 10%, far less than the 21% tax on money casinos win from patrons.

The revenue, estimated at up to $28.9 million annually, would support education programs.

In a news release Tuesday, the campaign said it had amassed more than 300,000 signatures and will submit at least 325,000 signatures.

“As the campaign approaches our goal of putting this on the November ballot, Missouri is a step closer to allowing Missouri adults to bet on sports, while generating tens of millions in annual funding for our classrooms,” Jack Cardetti, spokesman for the campaign, said in the news release.

Missourians for Healthy Families & Fair Wages, the campaign committee backing the minimum wage increase, reported it raised $540,000 during the first three months of the year and $1.9 million in total donations of both cash and in-kind services.

A large portion of the funding is in-kind donations from the Missouri Jobs with Justice Action. The Sixteen Thirty Fund is another major source of cash, giving $575,000 in 2023. The Fairness Project, another Washington, D.C.-based group that helps run liberal initiative campaigns, has contributed $250,000.

Under the statutory change being proposed, Missouri’s minimum wage, currently $12.30 an hour, would go to $13.75 per hour on Jan. 1 and $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2026. The last time Missourians voted to increase the minimum wage, in November 2018, it received 62% of the statewide vote.

This year’s proposal would also require employers to give paid sick leave to employees and allow them to use the time off to care for a sick family member or if they need time away from work due to domestic violence issues at home.

“We feel good about the direction we’re headed,” said Joni Wickham, spokeswoman for the campaign.

A St. Louis University/YouGov poll conducted in February found that 44% of voters were ready to vote for the abortion rights proposal after hearing the court-written ballot language. The SLU/YouGov poll also showed 60% of those surveyed said they would vote to legalize sports wagering.

The poll did not include a question about the minimum wage.

The abortion rights and sports wagering proposals would amend the state Constitution and need at least 171,592 signatures from registered voters, spread across six of the state’s eight congressional districts, to make the ballot. The minimum wage increase proposal is a statutory change and needs at least 107,246 signatures to make the ballot.