Justice Matters spent $34,000 in successful fight against Proposition 1, report shows

photo by: Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from May 7, 2018, a stack of mail-in ballots sits at the Douglas County Courthouse.

Justice Matters has officially closed the books on last spring’s Proposition 1 referendum by filing a campaign spending report that shows that the group spent $34,555 in its campaign against the ballot measure.

On Feb. 18, the faith-based group filed an accounting of the money it raised and spent to fight the measure that would have authorized a half-cent sales tax to fund a $44 million expansion of the Douglas County Jail and an $11 million behavioral health campus. Proposition 1 was defeated during a three-week mail-in referendum that concluded May 15, 2018, with 53 percent voting “no” and 47 percent voting “yes.”

Justice Matters’ campaign against Proposition 1 was rooted in its opposition to the jail expansion, and the group supported a second ballot measure that passed in November that authorized a quarter-cent sales tax to fund only the behavioral health campus and associated programming.

The Journal-World reported last month that Justice Matters missed the Dec. 31, 2018 deadline to file its Proposition 1 campaign funding report with the Douglas County clerk’s office. The same story reported that Citizens for a Better Douglas County, which supported passage of Proposition 1, spent $72,000 during the campaign.

Ben MacConnell, lead organizer for Justice Matters, said the report was filed late because he and others in the group’s leadership were unaware of the legal obligation to submit the report to the county clerk’s office. Justice Matters did file a similar report with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. He said Justice Matters worked with County Clerk Jamie Shew to complete the filing once made aware of the obligation and that no fine was assessed for missing the deadline.

The report indicates Justice Matters spent $6,100 of the $34,555 it raised on yard signs, $8,290 on on a phone bank operation, $8,684 on postage for mailers and $3,648 on print advertising. MacConnell said those efforts were similar to those of the group that supported Proposition 1.

“If you look at the two reports, we both spent money on the same things like Facebook advertising, print advertising and yard signs, but we spent about half as much,” he said. “The only reason it didn’t require significantly more money to get the message out is that the message was already widely shared that the county had not looked at all the reforms and (alternative) options to spending millions of dollars to expand the jail.”

A $28,180 donation from the Justice Matters operating budget accounted for the majority of the money raised for the campaign, MacConnell said. The filing showed that the largest donation from an individual was a $5,000 contribution from Lawrence resident Graham Kreicker.

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