At least 41,000 people from all 50 states and 17 foreign countries have given money to support or oppose a same-sex marriage ban in California, reflecting broad interest in a race viewed by some as second in national importance only to the presidential election.
Two weeks before the vote on Proposition 8, campaign finance records show that total contributions for and against the measure have surpassed $57 million, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.
That would be a record nationally for a ballot initiative based on a social rather than economic issue, campaign finance experts say. It also eclipses the combined total of $33 million spent in the 24 states where similar measures have been put to voters since 2004.
If approved by California voters, Proposition 8 would overturn a state Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriages by changing the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman.
Campaign committees formed to respectively back and battle the amendment were close in fundraising as of Oct. 23, AP's analysis found. Supporters have raised at least $27.7 million, while opponents have taken in $29.2 million, closing a fundraising gap that had them $10 million behind at the beginning of the month.
The figures for each side are actually higher because small cash donations made since Sept. 30 have not yet been reported.
The measure is likely to attract more money than any race other than the multibillion-dollar presidential election, judging by campaign-finance data from other high-profile contests. The closest appears to be the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota, at $35 million.
"I'm surprised how much they are spending because I would have thought 90 percent of the people would have made up their minds on this issue," said Robert Stern, president of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies. "But if this is a close race, that undecided 10 percent will decide the election. Every dollar, in a sense, counts."