COLUMBIA – Donations to campaigns on both sides of the Proposition B debate* continued to pour in during the latest fundraising cycle, but supporters still have more than 30 times more money than opponents.
Reports filed last week with the Missouri Ethics Commission show supporters' multimillion-dollar campaign is largely funded by the Humane Society of the United States and other national donors, while the opponents' more modest account is being financed mostly by Missouri agricultural groups.
Proposition B is on the ballot as a result of an initiative petition. It would establish new regulations for licensed dog breeders in Missouri regarding the design of kennels; minimal veterinary care; access to food, water and the outdoors; and numbers of breeding animals allowed.
Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, the primary organization leading the campaign in support of Proposition B, has collected more than $3.2 million. The Humane Society of the United States sponsored the initiative and has donated more than $2.18 million.
The campaign working against Proposition B, the Alliance for Truth, has raised almost $86,000.
The disparity in donations, however, isn't a reliable measure of how the vote will go on Nov. 2, MU political science professor Marvin Overby said.
“There is no guarantee that the campaign with the most money will prevail,” Overby said. “They may spend the money foolishly.”
The campaign supporting Proposition B has produced commercials promoting the initiative and has said it plans to air them in every Missouri television market. They also can be found online at YouTube.com. They show St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa and a veterinarian with the Humane Society of Missouri urging people to vote yes on Proposition B.
Overby, however, said he has not yet seen a Proposition B television ad. Those who search for them online probably are predisposed to voting yes, he said.
“You aren’t reaching people who haven’t thought about it already,” Overby said. “The pro group is going to have to spend some of that money to educate the public about the issue.”
Opponents of Proposition B also have a presence on YouTube.
Barbara Schmitz, campaign manager for Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, said the supporters' television commercials have begun and are already helping the campaign.
"Since the commercials began airing, we have seen a very significant response," Schmitz said. "We are getting calls from viewers who were not aware of the problem in Missouri, and we have seen an increase in donations."
Still, Overby said Proposition B might be an issue that few Missourians care about.
“There aren’t tens of thousands of Missourians donating a hundred dollars apiece,” Overby said. “You have a lot of people who will support it because they have this warm and fuzzy feeling about it, and you are going to get a whole lot of people out there who just don’t know much or don’t care much about the issue.”
The 118 donations to Missourians for the Protection of Dogs that came from state residents or organizations total almost $282,000. Twenty-one of those donations were for $100 or less. Donations from Maryland ($1.7 million) and New York ($590,547) far exceeded Missouri contributions.
Eighteen donations to the Missouri Alliance for Truth from residents of the state are for $100 or less, but donations from Missouri residents and organizations together total almost $82,ooo.
Karen Strange, president of the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners, said she doesn’t think the Humane Society of the United States is being honest about the true motive behind its campaign.
“Essentially what they are claiming is that they have no intent of targeting agriculture, but they have attacked agriculture in other states,” Strange said. "We have every reason to believe that they will be back to target further agricultural interests.”
Roman Schroeder, operations manager of the Alliance for Truth, said his campaign plans to advertise, but he did not give details about how they plan to do so. His ideas about the Humane Society targeting agriculture are aligned with Strange’s.
“There is no one in agriculture that is for this initiative,” Schroeder said.
Campaign contributions for Missourians for Animal Care show support from agriculture organizations. The committee is against Proposition B and supports the Alliance for Truth. Their campaign donations come from the Missouri Soybean Association, the Missouri Dairy Association, the Missouri Pork Association, the Missouri Egg Council and other agricultural groups. Together, they were the only donors to the campaign.
The Missouri Egg Council, based in Columbia, donated $5,000 in July. Executive Director Jo Manhart said she was more than willing to donate when she heard representatives of the Missouri Pet Breeders Association speak against Proposition B. Manhart fears her industry will be targeted next and said she thinks the proposition aims to put family-owned breeding operations out of business by setting standards that are too high.
While questioning the motives behind the ballot measure, Schroeder wanted to stress that opposing Proposition B doesn't mean endorsing puppy mills.
“Whether you are for or against Prop. B," Schroeder said, "not a single person is for puppy mills.”