Forward Observer Releases Final Initiative Editorial Scorecard of 2018 Cycle

November 9, 2018 – Our final edition of the California Initiative Editorial Scorecard reveals that three California papers' endorsements closely matched Tuesday's election results.  In addition, each of the four measures on the 2018 ballot endorsed by a majority of leading newspapers was approved by the voters. 

The Scorecard considers editorial positions taken by California's top 20 newspapers based on circulation and is based on a total of 193 editorial endorsements.  Click here to view the final Scorecard of the 2018 cycle.

“Three Californias” Initiative Could Cost UC Students $2 Billion Per Year

A new ballot initiative proposed by venture capitalist and tech billionaire Tim Draper aims to split California into three states, following in the footsteps of his failed attempt to reach the ballot in 2014 with a map drawn to split the state in six. Once again, Draper calls California "nearly ungovernable" and remarks that its citizens are "poorly served" by its government.

However, the plan again fails to spell out any of the myriad ramifications that dividing the state would entail. For instance, how would the plan affect University of California who pay in-state tuition to attend any one of nine undergraduate campuses in the state?

Our calculations show that the with new state lines fracturing the system, the Three Californias plan would reclassify approximately half of California resident UC students as "out-of-state" students. If the UC were to charge out-of-state tuition to these students, the total additional cost would be more than $2 billion per year.

Read our full report here.

Research Brief: Democrats Spent $91.5 Million on Same-Party Races in 2016

February 21, 2017 -- Continuing the trend since the passage of Proposition 14 in 2010, Democrats spent significantly more than Republicans on same-party races in the 2016 election cycle. Proposition 14 modified the way non-Presidential elections are conducted in California, creating an open primary between candidates of all parties followed by a run-off between the top two vote-getters. 

In 2016, Democrats raised or spent $91.5 million on 23 same-party races in the State Assembly, State Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives, with an average budget of $3.97 million per race. In comparison, Republicans raised or spent $2.78 million on four same-party races this cycle, averaging just under $700,000 per race. Notably, Republicans only ran against each other in the State Assembly; there were no races between Republicans in either the State Senate or the US House of Representatives. 

Over the three election cycles since Prop. 14 has gone into effect, Democrats have raised or spent $195 million on a total of 59 same-party races, while Republicans have spent $34.5 million on just 20 races.

Read the full report here


Research Brief: 2016 Initiative Spending and 2018 Forecast

February 3, 2017 -- After each election, Forward Observer analyzes spending by California ballot initiative campaigns, in order to identify best practices and emerging trends, and to assist clients as they budget and plan for the next election cycle.

Eight of 13 well-funded campaigns that outspent their opponents in 2016 were successful - a success rate of 61%. This was a decline from 2014, when all four "big spender" campaigns won their contests. 

We have developed a projection for successful "Yes" and "No" campaigns, based on the experience of three prior election cycles. Going into the 2016 campaign cycle, we projected successful "Yes" campaigns would spend on average $17.2 million. Campaigns that spent above that amount in this cycle had a 83% success rate; campaigns spending below that had a 50% success rate. 

Our projected budgets for successful "Yes" and "No" campaigns in 2018 are up sharply - Read our full report here. 

Sacramento Bee: To fulfill stem cell agency’s promise, consider winding it down

By Joseph Rodota and Bernard Munos

Former state Assemblyman and Sen. Art Torres, vice chairman of the Center for the Institute of Regenerative Medicine, recently floated a $5 billion trial balloon. As his agency awards the last of $3 billion in bonds approved by Proposition 71 to support stem cell research, he said, perhaps voters should be asked in 2018 to approve up to $5 billion in additional bonds.

Torres said the agency is “starting” to show results, with 27 clinical trials underway for new therapies to treat blindness, HIV, heart disease and several types of cancer. But progress should be measured in more than the education of new scientists, the creation of new research centers or in the progress of clinical trials.

Read the full Sacramento Bee article here.

Research Brief: Economic Reports Impact California Policymaking

January 23, 2017 -- A persuasive economic analysis is often the best foundation for framing an issue and breaking through to voters.

Forward Observer analyzed seven noteworthy economic papers released last year -- touching on some of the most important issues facing the state, including taxation, water, the sharing economy, prescription drug prices, housing and legalized cannabis.

"There was a lot of clutter on the 2016 statewide ballot," said Forward Observer CEO Joe Rodota. "Carefully crafted economic studies helped many campaigns compete and win."  

We highlighted some of the most noteworthy economic studies released in support of winning campaign on the 2016 California ballot or related to major state policy issues. 

Read our full report here.  

Forward Observer Releases Final Initiative Editorial Scorecard of 2016 Cycle

November 9, 2016 -- Our final edition of the California Initiative Editorial Scorecard reveals that two California papers' endorsements closely matched Tuesday's election results.  In addition, nine of 10 of the measures with a 50% or higher editorial score were approved by voters. 

The Scorecard weighs editorial positions taken by California's top 20 newspapers based on circulation and is based on a total of 328 editorial endorsements.  Click here to view the final Scorecard of the 2016 cycle.

Forward Observer Adds Experienced Political Researchers to Washington Office

April 6, 2016 -- Forward Observer is pleased to announce that Greg Scanlon and Kris Anderson have joined the Washington office of Forward Observer as senior consultants.

Greg and Kris will support the firm’s private and nonprofit sector clients with research and strategy consulting. They join our Washington office, which opened in 2011 and focuses on national issues and federal legislation, policy and regulation.

Greg Scanlon has over a decade of political experience at the federal, state and local level, working with campaigns, political committees, state parties and independent expenditure groups. During the 2013-14 election cycle, Greg served as research director for the Democratic Governors Association, where he established and ran the committee’s first in-house opposition research department through 38 gubernatorial elections.

Kris Anderson has nearly a decade of experience working at the highest levels of American politics. A veteran of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid, Kris served as the campaign’s Research Director. Most recently, Kris served as Research Director and Deputy Communications Director at the Republican National Committee, leading their 15-person research team.

"Looking ahead to 2017, Congress and the next Administration will consider a range of issues important to trade associations, companies, nonprofits and other organizations,” said Joseph Rodota, CEO and founder of Forward Observer, which also has an office in Sacramento, California. “Kris and Greg are smart, seasoned researchers with unmatched experience framing effective, fact-based narratives and arguments."

Greg and Kris will continue to retain their own independent partisan consultantices.

Threat of Wet Winter Spikes Google Searches on El Niño

November 4, 2015 -- Fearing the potential of an unusually wet winter with flooding and mudslides, Californians are growing increasingly anxious about El Niño, according to data compiled by Forward Observer. Google’s search volume measurement tools show that searches by Californians for El Niño keywords have increased by more than 1,600 percent since April 2015, overtaking searches for drought-related keywords earlier this summer. This trend by no means indicates California voters are moving on from the drought. Rather, policymakers should read this as a signal that voters are increasingly concerned about El Niño’s potential impacts and expect action on El Niño-related solutions, such as new tools to capture and store rainwater, as part of a long-term strategy to manage California’s water supplies. 

See our search volume infographic here.

Research Brief: Plastic Bag Industry Could Face $55 million Initiative Season

October 13, 2015 -- Plastic bag companies could spend more than $55 million to fight two campaigns on the November 2016 California ballot: a referendum on SB 270 and a proposed initiative to direct funds from any statewide plastic bag ban to a specified government account.  Our projections are based on the campaign budgets of successful “yes” and “no” ballot initiative campaigns in recent election cycles.

Based on campaign finance reports filed by the American Progressive Bag Alliance, we also project individual plastic bag companies could contribute between $6.7 million and $29.6 million each to fund these two campaigns. 

Read our complete brief for more details.

Research Brief: A Comparison of California Tax Reform Proposals

September 18, 2015 -- For more than a decade, voices from across the political spectrum in California have called for a reform of the state tax code, which critics argue relies too heavily on income taxes, which are highly volatile.

As the temporary tax increases in Proposition 30 approach their expiration date, State Controller Betty Yee has appointed a panel of economic experts to analyses various reform proposals that have been suggested.

In a new research brief, Forward Observer compares three recent tax reform plans – from the Parsky Commission (2009), Pacific Research Institute’s Eureka! How to Fix California (2012) and the Upward Mobility Act, a plan put forward by Senator Bob Hertzberg (2014).  Our brief compares 18 tax reform concepts appearing in one or more of these plans. Click here to download our research brief.

Where Did the Money Go? A Look at Four 2014 Ballot Initiatives

March 10, 2015 -- As part of our ongoing analysis of California ballot initiatives, Forward Observer analyzed the expenditures of four high-dollar campaigns on the 2014 ballot: No on 45; No on 46; Yes on 47; and No on 48. 

How much did these campaigns spend -- and what did they spend it on?  Read our brief to find out

Research Brief: 2014 Cycle Big Spender Analysis and 2016 Initiative Spending Forecast

February 27, 2015 -- After each election, Forward Observer analyzes expenditures of the major California ballot initiatives.  Our analysis is intended to identify best practices and emerging trends, and to assist clients as they budget and plan for the next election cycle. 

Which campaigns were the big spenders in the 2014 election cycle, and how did they fare?  How much did these campaigns spend -- and what are the implications for 2016?  Read our brief to find out

Immigration reform could raise cash for UC

Sacramento Bee -- February 20, 2015
By Joe Rodota

In a Sacramento Bee op-ed, Forward Observer CEO Joe Rodota cites an innovative proposal developed at UC Davis to argue immigration reform could help address the "yawning gap between what UC would like to spend on its operations and what the state budget sends to UC each year." 

Read more here:

Read Joe's column here.

$135.1 Million Spent in ‘Same-Party’ Races Following Passage of Prop. 14 in California

February 19, 2015 -- In 2010 California voters approved Proposition 14, a constitutional amendment changing all non-Presidential elections to a nonpartisan “top two” blanket primary. Under this system, all candidates run in a single primary open to all registered voters, with the top two winners facing each other in a run-off during the general election.

Since Proposition 14 was passed, there have been a total of 52 “same-party” races in California for the California State Senate, Assembly, and U.S. House of Representatives. In 36 races, a Democrat faced a Democrat in the November election; in 16 races, a Republican faced a Republican.

According to data obtained from the Federal Election Commission, the California Secretary of State, and the California Fair Political Practices Commissioner, Democrats raised or spent a total of $103.4 million in these 36 races, compared to $31.7 million for the 16 races among Republicans.  For every dollar spent or raised by Republicans in these intra-party contests, $3.26 was raised or spent by Democrats.

Read our full report here.