Neither conservative donor responded to requests for comment.
Another billionaire, the Boston-based investor Seth Klarman, gave $200,000 to the Massachusetts campaign to keep the anti-discrimination law.
“All human beings deserve the same basic protections,” Klarman said in an email. “I have faith that a majority of people share my belief, and will vote Yes on 3 to protect the rights of transgender people.”
In South Dakota, outsider money in ballot measures has so angered Speaker of the House Mark Mickelson that he penned his own initiative. The Republican is leading a campaign to ban out-of-state contributions to ballot-measure efforts in his state, where politicians are still debating a 2016 measure backed by a national group that sought to tighten lobbying and campaign-finance rules.The measure passed, but was overturned by the legislature the following year. Now the same national group is behind a similar ballot campaign to again tighten ethics rules and create a new government-accountability board — but this time in the form of a constitutional amendment, so that the legislature can’t repeal it.
“I’m sick and tired of liberal political groups and out-of-state businesses treating South Dakota like it’s a political playground,” Mickelson said. “My goal is to send all those people that don’t live here a message: Go somewhere else.”
Critics have said his proposed ban on out-of-state funding is unconstitutional.
“If they want to file and fight it in court, we’d be happy to see them there,” Mickelson said. “But hopefully they just determine they can go screw around in Idaho or some other state.”
For Zuckerberg, part of the motivation for getting involved in Ohio’s Issue 1 may be rooted in his 30-state tour last year, which included a sit-down with a group of recovering heroin addicts in Dayton. Later in the tour, Zuckerberg spoke emotionally about the experience.
“The biggest surprise by far has been the extent of the opioid issues,” he said. “It is really saddening to see.”
Supporters of Issue 1 said the measure has the backing of a coalition of local groups wanting to solve local problems, not just the support of Zuckerberg and Chan.
“This has been a three-year effort in Ohio started by faith leaders and community organizers and people who have just had enough of our incredibly high rates of incarceration and our incredibly high rates of addiction,” said Amy Hanauer, the executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal think tank. “It’s a homegrown effort.”
But a close look reveals a somewhat more complicated history.
The measure got onto the ballot with the help of the national Alliance for Safety and Justice, a project of the liberal nonprofit Tides Center based in California that does not reveal its donors. The alliance had previously spearheaded the passage of California’s Proposition 47, which shrank many criminal charges from felonies to misdemeanors. In 2015, it approached the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, which was already working on shrinking Ohio’s prison population, according to the Ohio group’s deputy director, Stephen JohnsonGrove.