Measure 5 spending tops $1 million
The Humane Society of the United States and its legislative fund have contributed more than $675,000 to the campaign supporting passage of Measure 5 on the North Dakota general election ballot.
According to campaign finance reports filed with the North Dakota Secretary of State's office and posted on the office's website Thursday, the Humane Society of the United States contributed $135,964.84 on Oct. 15 to North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty.
A separate filing by the Humane Society Legislative Fund in Washington, D.C., reported a contribution of $540,416 the same day.
North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty also reported receiving $100,918 on Sept. 25 from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The campaign to add a felony penalty to North Dakota law for malicious abuse of a dog, cat or horse reported total contributions of $837,145.
On the other side, North Dakota Animal Stewards reported on Oct. 25 contributions of just under $135,000 to fight Measure 5, including $30,000 from the North Dakota Corn Growers Association, $20,000 each from the state Farmers Union and North Dakota Pork Producers, and $17,395 from the North Dakota Stockmen's Association.
Protect the Harvest, another group organized to oppose Measure 5, reported a direct expenditure of $266,029.50 on the campaign.
The total campaign financing reported by all camps in the fight over Measure 5 easily exceeds $1 million, and is reflected in heavy campaign advertising on the measure in recent days.
"That is a lot of money to come into the state, a lot more than we've seen in past elections for something like this," Secretary of State Al Jaeger said.
A Forum Communications poll conducted in mid-October showed Measure 5 advocates holding a significant lead, 55 percent to 39 percent. More recent polls have suggested a much tighter race, however.
Ellie Hayes, campaign coordinator for the pro-Measure 5 group, blamed the shift on "heavy spending" and "misleading advertising" by the opposition groups.
North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty placed full-page ads in the Herald, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and other North Dakota daily newspapers Thursday, seeking to refute arguments advanced by the opponents.
"Measure 5 has nothing to do with agriculture or hunting," according to the ad. "While it creates tougher penalties for some extreme acts of cruelty, it "does not nullify any provisions of North Dakota's anti-cruelty laws."
Opponents argued in full-page newspaper ads on Sunday that Measure 5 is too narrowly drawn, covering only dogs, cats and horses; doesn't address the most common sorts of abuse, such as starvation and abandonment, and would lessen chances for more comprehensive animal protection legislation in the 2013 Legislature.
Measure 5 supporters say they mounted their initiated measure petition drive because the Legislature has failed to act to strengthen the state's anti-cruelty laws over several sessions.
Julie Ellingson, executive vice president for the North Dakota Stockmen's Association, which is part of the North Dakota Animal Stewards coalition, said she is "very confident" the 2013 Legislature will tackle the issue of animal cruelty if Measure 5 fails, as a working group representing a broad array of interests has continued to prepare legislation.
"We will have a bill draft ready," she said.
Ellingson said she wasn't surprised by the size of the HSUS investment.
"We knew it would be significant," she said. "We've watched the HSUS work across the country on ballot initiatives like this, with ulterior motives.
"The Humane Society of the United States has a very nice sounding name. We know all the good work our local societies do, but the HSUS has really hijacked the name of those good working people," mounting "campaigns against agriculture, including assisting with lawsuits against beef and pork producers' check-off programs and promoting meatless Mondays."
Ellingson contrasted "those large contributions from out-of-state animal rights groups with our broad coalition of veterinarians, sportsmen and women, farmers and ranchers and pet shelters."
Hayes noted that North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty also has backers among veterinarians, shelters and other groups and has received more than 3,000 financial contributions from individuals.
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